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Assessing Schools' Fitness Programs

June 16, 2002

Re "Laguna Beach Unified Pushes PE Into New Age of Lifelong Fitness," June 8:

Your article was misleading, but it points out that the district, however well-intentioned, failed to do its homework or to set clearly defined goals and objectives before launching this program.

The sedentary "kickball-type" program is long gone at El Morro Elementary School, where I've been a physical education specialist since 1990.

It was replaced more than a decade ago by a rigorous, health-related physical fitness curriculum. Students participate regularly in aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises that promote lifelong fitness concepts.

State-mandated fitness test scores for our fifth-graders are among the highest in California. The district should take pride in this success because it reflects a continued financial commitment toward physical education at the elementary level.

School site support for equipment purchases has also played a critical role at El Morro. I have attended several of the district-sponsored yoga classes and found them to be relaxing and informative. However, there is no evidence whatsoever that children need to "breathe deeply" or "train their nervous system" or that this type of workout promotes lifelong fitness where others do not. Indeed, most of the exercises are too complex for children to perform effectively, and some are simply inappropriate for school-age children.

Our students' lowest fitness test scores for 2001 were in the category that measures healthy body weight. Our results reflect the nationwide trend toward childhood obesity.

This data should be considered before making changes or improvements to PE curriculum. If the district is serious about improving the fitness of its students, it should reduce the amount of high-fat and empty-calorie food items sold on campus.

Continued support of health-related physical education and a focus on a more nutritious food service menu should be the district's priorities.

Lynn Chaldu

El Morro Elementary School

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