How Can We #ProtectPE?

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Once upon a time, long long ago, I was in elementary school - the same elementary school my kids are in. We had PE once a week and it was always the favorite class for all of us. I remember the huge parachute and the wheelie things and running laps around the gym… I also remember how much more focused I, and the rest of my class was, in our classes those days.

We had so much fun in our PE class and could exercise out all the pent-up energy and fidgetiness that kept us from learning all that we could. A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that increased childhood aerobic fitness is related to enhanced cognitive control. Amazing, isn’t it, how increasing the amount of physical activity a child gets in a day can increase brain power?

That’s just one of the reasons to support the American Heart Association’s movement to #ProtectPE. Research shows that children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day and having a Physical Education class every day at school is a great step in the right direction.

The physical education requirements in North Carolina, where my kids go to school, recommend that “daily physical education should be the maximum and 3 days per week should be the minimum amount of time for physical education.” It also goes on to state that schools should offer a minimum of 2 ½ hours of PE per week.

Within the last three years, my children's school switched from once-weekly to twice-a-week PE. Just with that one extra day, I can see an improvement in their school work, attention span, and physical fitness.

Did you know that only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year? Racial inequalities and socio-economic challenges leave many schools without resources for PE, but kids shouldn’t have to miss out on the benefits of PE because of where they live.

Under ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) all states have to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all students receive a “fair, equitable, and high-quality education.” The AHA is advocating for physical education to be included in every state’s ESSA plans.

2017 gives us an important opportunity to help drive awareness of the need for local and state action on PE, as State Departments of Education prepare their plans. Unlike previous federal education law, ESSA includes physical education (PE) and health as part of a “well-rounded curriculum” - this means that for the first time ever, health and PE have access to significant federal funding!

As parents, we need to advocate for daily PE to be included as a core component in ESSA plans so that money can be accessed for PE. If PE is not included in the plan, it won't have access to funding!

Active kids learn better. #IncludePE in our state’s education plan to keep #kids moving and learning. click to tweet 

Want to learn more about how you can work to increase PE in your community? Visit

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