Our Voice: Physical education must go way beyond school years

June 4, 2013 

The Institute of Medicine is recommending that P.E. become a core subject in schools nationwide.

The findings aren't surprising -- kids don't get enough exercise. The institute recommends at least an hour a day of vigorous exercise.

If that's the case, we suspect that most adults aren't getting their daily allowance, either. And it's easy to see why.

Schools around the country and in the Mid-Columbia have cut back on physical education in favor of classes aimed at helping kids meet state academic requirements.

There are a limited hours in the day, and when math and reading scores are low, it's tempting to steal a little instruction time from art and P.E.

We're not opposed to math and reading, but extra time in the gym might actually improve scores in the classroom. We know a quick walk around the block helps to clear our head. And regular exercise programs would certainly help with our nation's obesity epidemic.

But why settle for limiting P.E. to schoolchildren? Let's think bigger.

True, schools can force kids to run laps for most of their high school careers, but that does not translate into a healthy lifestyle.

After all, didn't most of the obese adults in our country take P.E. when they were in high school?

Just like a lot of people never calculate the area of a parallelogram after their geometry final, a lot of adults never run another 50-yard dash after they get that last P.E. credit.

Most medical experts agree that the trick to exercise is to find something you love to do, and do it.

We need to find an activity we'll keep at after graduation day. And our mindset has to be that we enjoy exercise -- and the feel-good endorphins it releases -- not that we're running laps and doing pushups as punishment.

Let's push for a national exercise campaign -- at the very least a local one. We can do it.

For example, the Mid-Columbia Reading Foundation has done a great job pushing their "Read with Your Child for 20 Minutes a Day" program.

Reading scores in the Kennewick School District highlight their success.

So how about a "Play with Your Kids (or your friends) for 30 Minutes a Day" campaign?

We are fortunate in this community. There are lots of ways to exercise, and the weather cooperates with us on most days of the year.

Plus, all kinds of clubs and groups in the Mid-Columbia are eager to find new members. There is everything from the Alpine club that hikes in the summer and cross-country skis in the winter, to cycling and running clubs, to dancing and tennis groups. The list goes on and on.

Let's be the leaders in the state and nation when it comes to fitness. Let's set the precedent with our children so they will love to exercise ... during their school years and way, way beyond.

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