Wisconsin bill aims to curb obesity rates

One in three third-graders is obese or overweight in Wisconsin

One in three third graders is obese or overweight in Wisconsin, according to the Department of Health Service. To help reverse that statistic, a new bill in the Wisconsin Legislature would increase gym time.

Under current law, Wisconsin students must to take gym three times a week. The proposed bill would require kindergarten through eighth-graders to have physical education every day.

While school administrators say more student exercise is always better, they say carrying out the possible mandate would be difficult.

For 12 years, Lindy Meyers has gotten Wisconsin students to jump, bounce and run to better health.

Four days each week, one more than state law requires, West Salem elementary students visit one of three gym teachers, including Ms. Meyers.

“Our district values physical education,” Meyers said.

She said her class is all about ingraining healthy habits at an early age.

“We like to expose them to lots of different activities,” Meyers said. “There are many benefits. It’s physical, social, cognitive.”

Now a new bill on Capitol Hill wants to get kids moving more in Wisconsin. It would require K to eighth-graders students to have gym class every day.

“Any extra physical education would be wonderful,” Meyers said.

However, school administrators said balancing five days of gym with the other demands of school may be tough to pull off.

“We’d have to add staff, we’d have to remove other programs,” West Salem Superintendent Troy Gunderson said. “At our last board meeting we finished cutting $500,000 dollars from our budget because of the state budget reductions that have been posed upon us,”

Instead of mandating more gym time, officials want to look for other ways to incorporate daily school exercise.

“I think it would be good for all of us to think about ways that we ensure that elementary students moved every day, strategically whether that is through recess or part of their physical education program or just through daily activity,” Gunderson said.

While Meyer admits more P.E. might be difficult to schedule in, she wants to make the most of her four days.

“In hopes that they’ll continue inside and outside school for their lifetime,” Meyer said.

While 75 percent of states have some time of law mandating physical education, Illinois is the only state that requires daily P.E. for all class levels.

Wisconsin’s physical education bill is backed by both the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association.