Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, joined with representatives of the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and Colleen Corsi, President of the NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (NYSAPHERD) at a press conference to announce introduction of a bill to increase physical education requirements in New York schools. The participants will discuss the importance of improved physical education for preventing child obesity and related diseases and improving academic performance.
A study released last winter by the California Department of Education found a strong relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement. The study matched Stanford Achievement test scores with the results of the California Fitnessgram, which measures aerobic capacity, body fat, abdominal strength, endurance, trunk and upper body strength and overall flexibility. Students who met three or more minimum physical fitness levels showed the greatest gains in academic achievement.
According to Ortiz, "I began working on improving physical fitness in children as part of my fight against the epidemic of child obesity. I am pleasantly surprised to learn that fitness also improves academic performance, although it certainly makes sense."
Assemblyman Ortiz also sponsors legislation creating a Childhood Obesity Prevention Program (A.2800) which recently passed the Assembly and is on the Senate calendar and a bill requiring restaurant nutrition labeling (A.5520-a). The Task Force is co-sponsoring a series of hearings on childhood obesity next month in Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany.
"My package of bills to help prevent and reduce obesity would be incomplete without efforts to increase physical activity. It is just as important as good nutrition. This new proposal will encourage schools and children to meet higher standards so that they will become healthier in mind and body and feel better about themselves. This bill should also help us reduce health care costs and absenteeism."