The Times West Virginian

Opinion

February 5, 2014

Move with caution in mandating extra 30 minutes a day of exercise for students

Lawmakers in Charleston are considering legislation that would mandate an extra 30 minutes a day of exercise for public school students.

Rightly concerned by the state’s obesity problem among young and old, experts told members of the House Education Committee that body and mind are both crucial in developing better students.

The Move to Improve Act, as the legislation is being called, received supportive testimony Thursday and Friday in Charleston.

The bill would require students to have 30 minutes of activity a day. But backers of the bill say this would not subtract from time spent on regular classes, but could be incorporated into those classes even during poor weather when kids can’t go outside.

West Virginia Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Charles Heinlein told lawmakers Friday “the key word is ‘integrated.’ Teachers can integrate (physical activity) without detracting from other subjects.”

Heinlein said today’s students, while much more tech-savvy than in the past, also have much less active lifestyles than kids from older generations. Because of that, we are seeing even young children with already established weight problems.

“If a child is obese in kindergarten, there’s a good chance they will be obese for life,” he said.

Don Chapman of the West Virginia Department of Education said schools can determine the best plan for implementing extra movement during the day. On days when kids can’t go out, he proposed “action-based learning time,” simply moving during instruction, could also be part of the plan.

Majority Leader John Unger is also backing Move to Improve.

“Students can be learning and be physically active,” he said. “Not sitting in chairs and not playing video games.”

We believe the issues being raised in the Education Committee warrant some sort of remedial action to get kids moving again.

But we’d like to hear more from teachers on the front line, who of course will be the ones who have to control that class of gyrating kids, and then get them seated and sorted out to get back to more sedentary learning.

A lot of things sound easy in the halls of the state Capitol in Charleston. We’re not sure things will go so smoothly in our local halls of learning.

— The (Beckley) Register-Herald

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