More than one-third of California teens do not participate in school physical education, researchers say. Despite a state requirement that public middle and high school students get 400 minutes of physical education every 10 days, approximately 1.3 million — more 38% of all adolescents in California public schools — do not participate in any school-based physical education classes, according to a policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. 


Cuts to physical education (PE) programs, as well as exemptions that allow high school students to skip up to two years of PE, have contributed to declining participation in these school-based programs. The study found that the proportion of teens participating in PE drops precipitously with age, from 95% at age 12 to just 23% at age 17. 


Using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the authors found that only 42% of California teens report participating in PE on a daily basis. More than 80% of all teens fail to meet the current federal recommendations for physical activity.


"California teens don’t get enough exercise," said Allison Diamant, MD, a faculty associate with the center and a UCLA associate adjunct professor of general internal medicine and health services, who co-authored the policy brief, "Adolescent Physical Education and Physical Activity in California."


PE classes are important to urban teens who may lack access to parks or other safe recreational spaces, Diamant said.


The average number of days that adolescents participate in PE each week varies considerably from county to county, ranging from 1.8 days in Santa Cruz County to 3.8 days in Madera County. The average number of days that teens engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per week ranges from 3.1 days in San Mateo County to 4.7 days in Lake County.

[Source: UCLA Health]