PE's not all that phat

Last year alone, forty-four states bet the farm--the Phat Farm?--on physical education classes. They're hiring more phys ed teachers, requiring more classroom hours, and bringing in state directors to get American youths' modern-day "Battle of the Bulge" under control. But these politicians should put their money on another cash cow, er, horse (or maybe start setting a better example themselves). First, PE does increase the amount of vigorous physical activity girls partake in but doesn't have the same effect for boys. And the news isn't all good for girls, either. Those taking more PE report spending less time doing light exercise outside class. And for both genders, more PE time doesn't result in weight loss or an improved Body Mass Index number. Part of the problem is that gym class is none too energetic. In one Texas county, just over 3.5 minutes of vigorous activity was reported per 40 minutes of class. Still, for all the hubbub over child obesity, it's hard to take these PE concerns seriously when many schools have restricted the most rigorous PE games, and still offer greasy pizza and French fries at lunch. Our solution? Get rid of those frivolous school busses and make the kiddos walk back and forth to school--uphill both ways.

"Not Your Father's PE: Obesity, Exercise, and the Role of Schools," by John Cawley, Chad Meyerhoefer, and David Newhouse, Education Next, Fall 2006

"More time in PE doesn't add up," by Nanci Hellmeich, USA Today, August 23, 2006