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Lawmakers want to beef up PE classes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Will schoolchildren get up an hour early for physical education? The state legislature has said it's trying to coordinate stronger physical education efforts to boost students' and inmates' performance.

Some state legislators have said they're trying to honor physical education teachers' request to help beef up requirements in gyms and classrooms. They even brought a Harvard professor to the state capitol Wednesday to help implement them. Clinton Representative Paul Ray said he's considering several approaches, including strategically placing PE in other places during the school day.

"We're looking at math and science scores," Ray said. "If you have a PE class in third period, then your fourth and fifth periods would be math and science, or even English. It depends what the students are struggling with."

Ray and West Salt Lake County Rep. Eric Hutchings want to see more strenuous activities in schools. They believe that will lead to better mental processing and a reduction in obesity and all related ailments.

"Let's deal with the academic elements of it, let's deal with the depression that so many teenagers face, and we believe we can do it all through a really effective P-E program."

Hutchings said teachers support the plan, as well as a push to make students exercise harder in PE classes. He adds that it will also save the state billions of dollars in obesity-related costs in the future.

Tom Patterson, Executive Director of the Utah Dept. of Corrections, said he would welcome a similar program to prisons to help inmates get past certain psychological issues so that they can return healthier to society. He says he is still investigating the proposal and believes that the program may only benefit certain, perhaps less dangerous, inmates.

Ray said state health care costs to treat obesity could reach $2.1 billion a year by 2018. He said spending very little to restructure PE classes now can save Utah millions of dollars in the future.

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Peter Samore


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