School Reform

The Role of Physical Education Policy in Physical Activity of Elementary School Children in Alabama's Black Belt Region

Students jumping rope outside.

Requirements for physical activity per day are not being met, as students did not attend physical education classes for the allotted 30 minutes per day.

The Issue:

State-mandated policies urge elementary schools to engage children in 30 minutes per day of physical education (PE) by a certified instructor. However, actual minutes spent in PE are much lower than the scheduled time in PE according to this study that incoporated pedometer step counts and observational assessments to assess students' daily physical activity levels.

Key Findings

  • The average time spent in PE class was 23.80 ± 5.33 minutes per day and students spent 14.33 ± 6.10 minutes per day engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

  • Pedometer readings showed an accumulated daily average of 4,079.57 and 3,473.44 steps for boys and girls, respectively—much lower than the amount of steps reported in prior studies.

Conclusion:

Though only one school district was sampled here, participants did not accumulate the physical activity recommendations. Further investigation is needed to help implement policies to allow children to be active throughout the school day.

About the Study:

In five rural Alabama elementary schools, 683 students were assessed using pedometer step counts, (pedometer worn five hours per day over three days), the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT), and the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth (SOPLAY).

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