A great deal of discussion has taken place regarding the importance of physical education (PE) in schools. Fortunately, many districts throughout the United States are required by law to offer PE, but are they compliant?

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2012; 42 [5], 452–59) focused attention on California schools, where state law mandates that students in grades 1 through 6 are to have at least 200 minutes of activity every 10 days. The researchers culled cross-sectional data from FITNESSGRAM® 2004-2006 and the 2000 U.S. Census to determine PE policy compliance and children’s fitness levels. The results were not promising.

“Of the 55 districts with compliance data, 28 (50%) were in compliance with state physical education mandates; these districts represented 21% (216) of schools and 18% (n = 16,571) of students in the overall study sample,” the authors stated.

They also wanted to compare fitness levels of students from compliant and noncompliant schools. “Controlling for other student-, school-, and district-level characteristics, students in policy-compliant districts were more likely than students in noncompliant districts to meet or exceed physical fitness standards.”

“Policy mandates for physical education in schools may contribute to improvements in children’s fitness levels, but their success is likely to depend on mechanisms to ensure compliance,” the authors concluded.