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How Budget Cuts Have Created a Health Epidemic in Students

It’s no big secret that physical fitness is essential to living a long and healthy life, yet Physical Education is only mandatory in 8 of the 50 states. In the recent decade, the obesity epidemic in America has been at the forefront of health crises. It leads many to wonder, why are budget cuts toward Physical Education in schools so frequent?

The sad reality is that many K-12 school districts throughout the U.S. rely on high test scores to secure funding. Budgets are focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, while “non-essential” programs like art, music, and physical education are overlooked.

Underfunding, or in some cases total defunding of these programs, is incredibly detrimental to developing children’s health and well-being. Budget reductions to physical education and after school programs have contributed significantly to creating a health epidemic in students across the country.

Daily exercise is crucial to the positive development of children’s bodies and minds. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children ages 5-17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

Sometimes, Physical Education class is the only way for children with busy parents to receive structured time for physical activity. Participation in after school sports or travel sports programs is a privilege not afforded to many. When kids lose out on the opportunity for exercise because of budget issues, they are affected in a variety of ways, both physically and mentally.

The problems that come with a lack of adequate exercise lead to irreversible mental and physical health issues, like cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, depression, and other severe ailments that contribute to the ongoing health epidemic faced by young Americans every day.

How Budget Cuts Created a Health Epidemic in Students

Budget cuts are a stepping stone to a major health epidemic in American students. When government agencies slash physical education budgets, they think they’re saving themselves money. While this may be true in the short term, over time, it will wind up being much more costly than expected.

Childhood obesity is steadily on the rise annually, while heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women of all ethnicities. Every 37 seconds, someone in the United States dies of cardiovascular disease. Without access to physical activity in schools, that person could be any of these underserved children in the future.

Kids need daily exercise, or else they are at a higher risk of serious diseases. Additionally, a lack of physical activity can impact mental health and performance in school.

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is steadily on the rise annually. According to the CDC, the number of obese young people in the United States has more than tripled since the 1980s. The CDC’s data from 2015-2016 found that 1 in 5 children aged 6 to 19 is obese. So what exactly are budget cuts saving government agencies? In essence, nothing.

Each year in the United States, $147 billion is spent on obesity-related healthcare costs. So while the impacts of physical education budget cuts might not be immediately apparent, it can lead to incredibly costly expenditures for public and private medical facilities in the long run. Childhood obesity has been attributed to several other long-term complications like:

  • High cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Impaired glucose tolerances or insulin resistance
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Joint and musculoskeletal problems
  • Liver disease
  • Acid reflux
  • Gallbladder issues
  • Depression and other mental health issues
  • Type 2 diabetes

By cutting off funding for programs that promote a healthy lifestyle, children are exponentially more likely to be at risk for childhood obesity and obesity-related illnesses.

Type 2 Diabetes

Because of the obesity epidemic, rates of Type 2 diabetes are rising at an alarmingly fast in children. Diabetes can lead to a plethora of severe health issues and, ultimately, death. Some of the complications and ailments brought on by Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Cataracts
  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage leading to amputation
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Clogged veins and arteries
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

While diabetes is a manageable disease, there is still no guarantee of the risks and outcomes presented later.

Mental Health

The second leading cause of death in young people ages 10 to 24 is suicide. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are an increasingly concerning part of the health epidemic faced by America’s children today.

Boston Children’s Hospital estimates that nearly one of every eight children between the ages of 6 and 12 has suicidal thoughts. The fact that exercise can minimize the risks of depression and suicide in children and young adults is widely accepted. During physical exertion, our brains let out endorphins, which release the energy to keep us feeling good. Without regular exercise, children’s bodies and minds can suffer severely.

Depression also arises prominently in obese or overweight children, especially if they are teased or bullied. This can result in slipping grades and anger issues, furthering the cycle of depression.

What Kids Are Really Losing Out On

When kids don’t receive the recommended amount of daily exercise, their overall physical health and well-being are negatively impacted. Regular exercise promotes healthy lifestyle habits that continue into adulthood.

School health programs teach kids the value of nutrition and taking care of your body. Physical Education promotes increased endurance and flexibility, fine-tuned motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and strengthens muscles and bones. It also improves communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills that are reflected in the classroom.

Lack of physical fitness leads to the ailments contributing to the ongoing health epidemic in our country. Childhood obesity leads to further health problems down the road and puts children at a higher risk of depression and suicide.

By cutting off funding to Physical Education programs in the United States, federal and state government agencies are directly contributing to the ongoing health epidemic in the country. Pennies can be pinched now, but lives can’t be saved later. Physical health should be prioritized in school systems before this epidemic becomes irreversible.

About The Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 large group physical activity resource. Skillastics® makes it easy to organize, motivate, and engage students to move, learn, and love it. Skillastics® is an innovative technique of play designed around an oversize mat where up to 100 children can play at one time. There are 13 different Skillastics® Activity Kit themes, ranging from general fitness, sport skill development, character enhancement, and academic integration, including STEM and nutrition.

The newest layer of Skillastics® resources includes 30-Day Virtual Physical Activity programs, including Fitness, Martial Arts, and Yoga.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide. For more information, email or check out

5 Reasons Why Skillastics® Will Make Your Program Great


Can you imagine your job getting easier, and more productive?  What if you could maximize participation without wasting the limited time you have?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a resource at your disposal guaranteeing a glowing administrative review?

With Skillastics® you can.

The Skillastics® Activity Kit System is a powerful resource that will transform your program. Not Convinced? Following are 5 key reasons why Skillastics® will undeniably make your program great.

1) Increase Academic Learning
A requirement you are constantly hearing from your administration. Skillastics® bridges the gap between physical activity and academics by seamlessly incorporating vocabulary, literacy, math and STEM learning. Skillastics® is an innovative way of including more academic integration.

2) Connecting with Classroom Teachers
What makes Skillastics® stand out beyond any other physical activity resource is its ability to connect directly with classroom teachers through the Skillastics® Custom Question Card Templates for nutrition, STEM and math. Simply share these templates with classroom teachers and ask them to create questions that are relevant to the lessons that they are currently teaching. You would then take these questions and add them to your program while your students are playing Skillastics®. Instant connection!

3) Organized Chaos
The best large group resource available! You will not find a better large group resource out there. Period. Any instructor that is using Skillastics® properly will tell you that the Skillastics® Activity Kit System exceeds their expectations and reinforces all the reasons why they decided to add Skillastics® to their program.

4) Steller Assessment
It is crucial to assess students to make sure they are really learning. If you, your students, parents, and administration truly want to see fitness progression in your class, the Skillastics® Activity Kit System is the most effective resource to measure movement in a variety of ways.

Fully Engaged
Students are full engaged, which frees you up to conduct formative assessment,    measuring all students progress and mastery of skill without interruption.

Effective Feedback
With students fully engaged, Skillastics® provides a more relaxed atmosphere for feedback and individual instruction when needed.

Summative Assessment with Technology
Skillastics® is the most effective resource to measure student outcomes using heart rate monitors or other technology based devices.

5) The Skillastics® Activity Kit System Saves Time
Do you see your student’s once a week? Twice a week if you’re lucky? How many times do you see a new lesson activity that looks like fun, but takes much too long to set up? The innovative Skillastics® technique takes less than a minute to set up and allows for maximum participation while increasing fitness levels.

Introducing the Skillastics® Activity Kit System into your program will exceed your expectations and fulfill all your objectives. Visit or email us at to transform your program today.

CDC and SHAPE America Help Schools Make the Most of This Critical Part of the School Day

Schools across the country will now have step-by-step guidance and evidence-based strategies to support school recess for all K-12 students and enhance active school environments.  The two new guidance documents, Strategies for Recess in Schools and Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice, were recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, and can be downloaded free of charge at:

“This is a milestone in our quest to increase children’s physical activity levels.  Daily recess, monitored by well-trained staff or volunteers, can optimize a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development,” says SHAPE America Chief Executive Officer E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D. “Recess contributes to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for students and helps them apply the knowledge and skills they learn in an effective health and physical education program. In addition, recess supports 50 Million Strong, SHAPE America’s commitment to empower all kids to lead active and healthy lives.”

The guidance documents provide a blueprint for schools to use in implementing successful recess programs for their students. They are designed for state and school district leaders who provide technical assistance and professional development on recess, as well as classroom teachers, recess and playground supervisors, support staff, school administrators, parent-teacher organizations, school health coordinators, advisory councils, parents and anyone interested in supporting recess in schools.

Strategies for Recess in Schools defines recess and identifies 19 evidence-based strategies schools can implement that increase student physical activity and academic achievement. Although most of the evidence and expert opinion for these strategies came from elementary schools, many of the strategies are also applicable to secondary schools.  The intent is for school staff or groups working with schools to identify what is currently happening or not happening with recess in their school, and then use this information to develop a recess plan that serves all students.

Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice complements the strategies document by guiding schools through the process of developing a written recess plan that incorporates the identified strategies. In addition, CDC and SHAPE America developed a customizable Recess Planning Template, which enables schools to record details of how they will organize and implement recess at school.

The new recess documents will be featured at a program session called “Strategies for Recess in Schools” at the organization’s National Convention in Boston on Tuesday, March 14 from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. Attendees will learn how recess can help students increase their daily physical activity and contribute to achieving the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.  The new resources will help schools develop a comprehensive plan for recess to increase students’ participation in physical activity and improve their academic achievement.

By diving into each of the five broad categories included in the Strategies for Recess in Schools document, school staff or committees will be able to answer specific questions which will help them examine and enhance an existing recess program, or develop a new recess plan for a school.

Download the two new guidance documents, Strategies for Recess in Schools and Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice, free of charge at:

Follow the conversation using #SHAPErecess and #recess.

Skillastics® is the Movement – IHT Spirit System Measures that Movement


Skillastics® and the IHT Spirit System

 Imagine you owned Skillastics®.  If you did, you’d know it’s a great way to get your students moving in any space, with a lot of participants all at once, and it’s especially effective when time is limited. But the question many teachers who already use Skillastics® ask is, “Now that I’ve got them moving, how do I measure it in just as simple, efficient way”? Now imagine you own Skillastics® and the IHT Spirit System, the newest, most innovative heart rate monitor assessment technology in the educational market today.  If you did, you’d know the answer to the question above has finally been answered by picturing the following scene:

Forbes Middle School Physical Education teacher Danielle Garcia is excited to start an evidence-based and standard aligned lesson. This lesson is designed not only get heart rates up, but one that provides an excellent teaching tool to prepare her students for the FITNESSGRAM®.  As class begins each student’s heart rate races into the “yellow and red” zones! The lesson progresses, student’s heart rates are up, they are breathing heavy, while laughing and having fun.  Eventually, the bell rings and the class comes to an end. Students have smiles on their faces as their heart rates begin to return to the resting “blue” zone. Students quickly and effortlessly take their assigned IHT Spirit heart rate monitors off, in less than a second; they scan it across the Spirit Reader and return it to their specified numbered holder. This allows students to easily locate their designated monitor next class.

Beep! Beep! Beep! The web-based Spirit System recognizes and counts all 47 monitors in seconds. The Spirit software instantly receives; student ID numbers, heart rates, the Skillastics® activity information and the activity time. The system downloads all the data at the individual, class and school levels, and then erases it off the monitor, so that it’s ready for the next class. 

Thanks to Skillastics® and the Spirit System, Mrs. Garcia knows she taught a high quality, engaging class that made a real difference in her student’s lives. The best part is that she was able to focus more quality time on her students instead of the tedious and time consuming class management distractions. This was possible due to the easy set-up of Skillastics® and the Spirit System’s instantaneous and simple tracking assessment.  As an extra bonus, Mrs. Garcia knows the data from the Spirit System can help validate her efforts as a great teacher.

 Mrs. Garcia walks a few students out as they recap their fun day. She congratulates them on reaching their individual and class heart rate goals and reminds them to check their smart phones later to see their individual data, which is displayed in colorful graphs. Parents can also opt in to receive all of this information via email!

Forbes Middle School is competing with other middle schools across the district, who are all utilizing Skillastics® as a great activity, while tracking results with the Spirit System to measure their student’s effort.

 Back in the gym, Mrs. Garcia selects the report icon and runs a summary report to see whether her students achieved the state mandated 50% of moderate-to-vigorous-physical-activity (MVPA) during her lesson.  Satisfied, she logs off as her next class shuffles in…..

With the possibilities endless in both activities and measurement, envision what Skillastics® and the Spirit System can do for you!

Let’s Move in School Skillastics® Sample Lesson Plan

“People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.”  I’m not sure where that quote came from and I know it’s not new, but I do think it’s a great quote!  Whether you apply it to a vacation, a big event at school, or your daily teaching, it’s true.  Like most of you, doing lesson plans wasn’t one of my favorite things in the world but I learned quickly if I didn’t have good lesson plans, the day didn’t go well.  I also realize that the more experience we have, the less “formal” the written plans become but, those important details always need to be considered.  In order to not fall into the “busy, happy, good” type of teacher key components of a lesson need to be considered (NASPE Standard addressed, purpose/goal/outcome of the lesson, assessment, transitions, safety, equipment distribution, etc.).  I realize there are many formats for writing lesson plans and I’ve used several but the content is typically the same.  Below is a sample plan for a “Skillastics® Let’s Move in School” lesson.  Hopefully it will be helpful and serve as a reminder that we do need a plan!

Let’s Move in School Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan’s Authors:  Sandy Slade and Rhonda Holt

Lesson Title:  Let’s Move Together

Target Audience/Grade Level:  3rd-6th grade

Student Participation Number:  one or two classes depending on available space

Teaching Location:  Gym or Outdoor Playing Area

Lesson Goal:  Students will work together in small groups to perform a variety of throwing, catching, jumping and running activities

Instructional Objectives: 

Psychomotor—Students will perform the designated throwing, jumping and running skills

Cognitive—Students will be able to identify activities to practice at home or during recess

Affective—Students will be able to demonstrate cooperation and teamwork during the activity

National Physical Education Standards:

Standard 3—Participates regularly in physical activity.

Standard 5—Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings. 

Lesson Equipment:  Let’s Move in School Skillastics® Activity Kit, 6 poly spots or markers, 3 x 5 card and pencil for each student

Safety:  Remind students to watch where they are going when moving to and from the mat, remind students to do each activity correctly so everyone in their group feels safe

Lesson Plan Details:

Instant Activity:  “Walkie Talkie” 5-8  minutes

When the music is playing, students find a partner and walk fast or jog slowly in the designated area while discussing their favorite activities to do at recess or at home.  When the music stops, students have 5 seconds to find a new partner.  When the music starts again, students start moving and share their favorite activity with the new partner. 

Introductory Activity:  3-5 minutes

Review safety, rules and any LMIS Skillastics® activities that may need clarification, assign the repetition level for the day, quickly divide students into 6 teams

Main Activity:  Play “Let’s Move in School Skillastics®” 20-25 minutes

Students will play the Skillastics® game according to the designated rules. 

Lesson Closure/Assessment:    “3-2-1 Let’s Move”  5-8 minutes

Each student will complete the assessment on a 3 x 5 note card.  Using the activities from Let’s move in School Skillastics® they will determine the activities they would choose for each of these items:

3 activities they like the best

2 activities they would like to practice at recess

1 activity they would teach their family and practice them at home

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