RESTON , VA -- Despite skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and calls from Congress, the Surgeon General and, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for high quality daily physical education programs, most states receive a failing grade on their physical education requirements. Those are the findings of the latest Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA, released by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association (AHA).

NASPE President Jacalyn Lund of Georgia State University said the report showed that state physical education requirements are extremely weak.
“Furthermore, a vast array of 'loopholes' such as exemptions, waivers and on-line physical education classes too often eradicate those minimal standards at the local level at a time when more and more children are obese or at risk of obesity," she said.

Conducted every five years, the purpose of the Shape of the Nation Report is to provide current information about the status of physical education in each state and the District of Columbia in the following areas: time requirements, exemptions/waivers and substitutions, class size, standards, curriculum and instruction, student assessment, teacher certification, National Board Certification, state physical education coordinator and body mass index collection. For the complete report, visit www.naspeinfo.org.

Since the last Shape of the Nation Report in 2001, there has been a continued increase in childhood and adult overweight and obesity. Currently, 17 percent (more than 9 million) of children and teens age 6 to 19 years are overweight and an additional 31 percent are at risk for overweight. Even though a majority of states mandates physical education, most do not require a specific amount of instructional time and about half allow exemptions, waivers, and/or substitutions. These "loopholes" significantly reduce the effectiveness of the mandate.

Another general pattern with differential effect on physical education is local control of education. Some states establish standards or broad guidelines for curriculum content and defer specific decisions regarding time, class size, and student assessment to local school districts or even schools. This results in diverse patterns of delivery for physical education within states.