Tallahassee, Fl — Physical education received a boost in Florida last month when Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill expanding physical education requirements for elementary and middle schools. Middle schools now must offer students in grades six through eight one class period of physical education per day for one semester, beginning in fall 2009. The bill also requires elementary schools to provide students with 30 minutes a day of continuous exercise.

Last year, Crist signed a bill that required elementary schools to have 150 minutes of P.E. weekly, but lawmakers learned that many schools didn't fully comply with the standards and toughened the requirements. Some schools had been counting students' walk to lunch, watching a film on nutrition or stretching for a few minutes by their desks as exercise.

“This legislation demonstrates Florida's commitment to fostering healthy lifestyles in every young Floridian at an early age,” Crist said in a statement. “By emphasizing the importance of physical fitness, we can teach these students how to make smart choices about exercise that will improve their health throughout their lives.”

Crist also honored 10 elementary schools that participated in the Governor's Fitness Challenge, a program that provides guidance and incentives to schools in helping boost physical fitness for children. Four schools were selected to receive $10,000 toward the purchase of sports or fitness equipment for their schools. Four other schools were selected to receive $5,000 to purchase equipment, while two other schools were chosen to receive a visit from a Florida Olympian or professional athlete.

To qualify for the $5,000 prizes, schools had to show that at least 50 percent of the student body participated in the fitness challenge. Schools that also provided evidence of improvement in their students' fitness performance were eligible for the $10,000 awards.