A big cheer for Payson Unified School District: Jump up and down. Hoot and holler. Then take a break. If you’re like the average American, you don’t get any regular exercise — so you gotta be careful.
Fortunately, the district put together a masterful application and landed a $1.4 million federal grant to expand the physical education classes in the schools — one of just 77 districts nationwide that earned a share of those eagerly sought-after funds.
The grant will pay the salary of a new physical education teacher, buy supplies and provide facilities that will make it possible to offer PE classes at least twice a week.
The grant will help the district reverse the alarming disappearance of PE classes nationwide in the face of budget woes. Alas, many studies demonstrate the lifelong benefit of physical activity — on everything from academic test scores to the chronic diseases that account for the great majority of deaths in this country.
Consider some of the daunting statistics complied by the U.S. Surgeon General.
Half of all Americans between the ages of 12 and 21 are not “vigorously active” on a regular basis.
About 14 percent of girls and 7 percent of boys report no recent physical activity.
Physical activity declines strikingly with age on into high school.
The number of schools with physical education classes has dropped by nearly 50 percent in the past five years.
A lack of exercise contributes to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and obesity — all primary risk factors early mortality.
Currently, one in six Americans between the ages of 6 and 19 is overweight, which sets them up for chronic diseases as adults.
Unfortunately, an obsessive focus on a “back to basics” academics and the budget woes of public schools have led to shortsighted reductions in PE classes and many other valuable electives like art and music.
The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation reports that just 4 percent of elementary school children, 8 percent of middle school children and 2 percent of high school students have daily PE classes. As a result, only about one-third of high school students meet recommended levels of physical activity.
The foundation published a summary of 14 studies on the academic impact of daily physical education classes involving 58,000 students. Eleven of those studies found PE increased academic performance, even though it reduced the amount of seat time in academic classes.
Of course, a brief PE class a couple of times a week won’t magically cure this national plague. Still, it’s a start — one on which we hope parents will build by making sure their children log off Facebook and shut down the video game and get some exercise.
In the meantime, we’re delighted that the Payson Unified School District found this opportunity to tend to the needs of their students.
We’ll lead another round of cheers — soon as we catch our breaths.
Amazing friends, new and old
We should not be, but we are constantly amazed at the kindness and good-neighbor approach of people who live in and around the Rim Country.
We get reminded of it constantly as readers send us items for our Good Guy award. Residents who nominate others for our Good Guy award tell great stories of how a neighbor took them to the hospital in the Valley over weeks, sometimes months, for treatment. How other neighbors took care of their yard and did household chores for them when they were ill.
Then there are those complete strangers you meet in parking lots and alongside of the roadway who have come to the rescue of people whose autos quit running or had a flat tire and are in need of help.
Friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors and complete strangers lending a hand is common place in the Rim Country, but sometimes we just forget how rare this attitude is.
Then we receive letters from some people who live in the Valley and who found themselves in need of help. They tell us stories about the help a Rim Country resident provided or of a great service by a local businessman that would just not have happened in the Valley.
They tell us the Rim Country is a special place with special people.
That’s a nice feeling.