Houston Matters

Are kids getting enough physical activity in schools?

A new study looks at whether physical activity requirements for children in schools actually curbs youth obesity rates, and we consider solutions to the problem.


A new study finds that mandated physical activity has not reduced youth obesity rates in certain states.


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Texas and many other states have certain laws on the books that establish minimum requirements of physical activity for elementary school students.

Many of these laws were established to address concerns about childhood obesity, but a recent study from researchers at the University of Texas and University of Iowa, published in The Milkbank Quarterly, indicates that many of these requirements did not make a noticeable difference in obesity rates.

The study used data from nearly 14,000 elementary school students that were observed in two groups: one group that began kindergarten in 1998 and the other in 2010, following both through the fifth grade.

They then considered 24 states and the District of Columbia that implemented these laws between 1998 and 2016 and found that students under those laws did not actually increase their physical activity and that average BMI (body mass index) scores did not change.

To get a little more insight into the study and its methodology, Houston Matters spoke with study co-author Paul von Hippel, Professor of Public Affairs and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Then, we get perspective from two educators about what schools should be doing to improve children’s physical activity time. Sue Scheppele is a former PE teacher at Wharton Dual Language Academy in HISD, and Rachel Naylor is the executive director of the Texas Association For Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. You can hear their experiences in the audio above.

Joshua Zinn

Joshua Zinn

Producer, Houston Matters

Joshua is a producer for Houston Matters on News 88.7 as well as the host of Encore Houston on Houston Public Media Classical. He joined Houston Public Media as a radio intern in 2014 and became a full-time announcer the following year. Now he prepares segments and occasionally records interviews...

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