UCLA study finds 1.3M teens have no PE

May 31, 2011 6:27:14 PM PDT
A childhood obesity problem plaguing our nation and a new California study may shed more light on why.

California requires middle and high school students to get 400 minutes of physical education every 10 days, but a new UCLA study found nearly 40 percent -- that's 1.3 million teens enrolled in a public school -- do not participate in any school-based P.E. class.

"We don't have P.E. at our school and I think it's ridiculous because kids need physical education or else they'll get fat," said student Kayla Allen.

"It's kind of sad because I think everybody needs P.E. because it helps people learn how to be fit," said student Faith Oliver.

More alarming, almost all 12 year olds participate in P.E. classes, but by the time they are 17 years old less than a quarter do.

The report also found more than 80 percent of all California teens fail to meet the current federal recommendation for physical activity. While high school students can exempt out of P.E. for certain reasons, researchers largely blame the state budget cuts for the lack of school-based exercise programs and there are numerous studies that show P.E. helps boost academic performance.

"In difficult financial times, these are decisions that are being made both at the state and local level that are counter-intuitive. They don't make sense. But when you don't have money, people start doing things that don't make sense," said Kevin Gordon, a pubic schools Lobbyist.

Doctors worry about the consequences of cutting P.E. out of academics. Pediatrician Dr. Richard Pan, who is also an assemblyman, sees his patients getting heavier and heavier.

"With the obesity epidemic that's happening, we need to be sure that our kids have good health habits, and part of that is physical activity," said Assm. Richard Pan, M.D., D-Natomas.

If the state's expiring tax hikes don't get extended for a longer period of time, schools could see billions more in budget cuts.

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