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Grade-schoolers scoff at a state-mandated half-hour of phys ed each day, but not for the reason you may think. The kids say it's not nearly enough exercise.

By RODNEY THRASH
Published May 17, 2007


State lawmakers just mandated that elementary school kids move their patooties at least 30 minutes a day next year.

More than 20 percent of girls and about 30 percent of boys are overweight or close to it, according to the Florida Department of Health. Health officials and educators who bemoan the state's growing problem with childhood obesity applaud the mandate.

But what about the people the law will directly affect - the kids?

At Lakeview Fundamental Elementary, some second-graders in Coach Jason Wood's second period gym class at the St. Petersburg school think the law, though well-intentioned, is flawed.

Never mind that they still add the number of months to the end of their ages.

"Seven and three-quarters," one of them says proudly.

These Lakeview students - Ajae Edwards, Eriana Redix, Ann Martin and Tim Johnson, all 8, and Sean Donnelly and Shunteri Anderson, both 7 - may be young, but they have strong views on the new PE requirement, exercise and mortality. Some are already body- and image-conscious.

Take notes, Gov. Crist.

Do you know that going to gym is now the law?

Ann: Oh yeah.

What does the law say?

Ann: It said that you have to have 30 minutes of PE every day. My grandpa just told me last night.

Sean: I don't think it's a good law.

Really? Why not?

Eriana: People should get way more gym than that.

Ann: Gym should be at least 45 minutes.

Tim: That's not long enough to get practice and exercise. You need exercise at least . . .

He pauses as he mulls an appropriate number.

Tim: Fifty minutes a day and then I'll be fine with it.

(Actually, Tim isn't that far off target. The U.S. surgeon general recommends children get 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.)

Fifty minutes? You actually like running around, getting all sweaty and smelly?

Shunteri: Not being sweaty, but doing all the fun things that will help me get better, healthier.

Why do you need that much PE?

Ajae: So you won't be too heavy. Like too hard to pick up.

When you see a heavy person, what do you think?

Ajae: They're cute, but not beautiful. I think they need to lose a little bit - like 60 pounds.

Who teaches you the importance of exercise?

Ajae: My dad. He does construction. He's big, but he said he's trying to lose some weight and work out. He loves to eat. Salad, shrimp, crabs, everything.

Sean: My dad taught me if you exercise, it helps your body and your heart.

Tim: He just took the words out of my mouth.

Sean: You get healthy and it's a good chance you'll stay alive for a long time.

Just by going to PE?

Tim: I exercise every single day. Jump rope, basketball, soccer. All kinds of sports. If you don't get exercise at least one time a day, you could die.

Die?

Eriana: Your muscles can get weak.

Sean: If you don't exercise, your blood rate keeps going down and down.

This is some heavy stuff.

Ann: I used to go to a school that didn't have gym every day. We only had it Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Tim and Sean, together: Whoa!

Ann: It wasn't as much fun. The other two days, we had art and music.

Sean: We have PE every day.

Tim: Coach is fun.

Sean: Coach is cool.

Tim: And he's tall.

Ann: I get to play with my friends and play basketball and run around and have fun.

Tim: That's the best part, playing with friends.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at (727) 893-8352 or rthrash@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

Gym class: It's the law

An excerpt:

Each district school board shall provide 150 minutes of physical education each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5.

Each district school board is encouraged to provide 225 minutes of physical education each week for students in grades 6 through 8.