- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Senate wants to require students to be physically active for at least 30 minutes each school day.

Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, is carrying a bill that would require a half-hour of moderate physical activity daily amid classes. The bill suggests ideas like walking, jumping rope, playing soccer, lifting weights, or daily activities like taking the stairs or doing yard work.

West Virginia has some of the highest rates of health problems from obesity. Medicaid costs caring for obese children in West Virginia cost $198.1 million in 2013.

Aside from health detriments, students get lethargic and can’t concentrate if they don’t get to expend some energy, education officials told a Senate panel Friday.

The state’s adults aren’t setting a great example, studies show. West Virginia has the second-most physically inactive adults in the country, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported last year.

The proposal cleared one Senate committee Thursday, though some lawmakers questioned how teachers could find the extra time.

State Board of Education President Gayle Manchin said the program wouldn’t affect existing classes. Kids would need to be up moving around for 30 minutes total, not necessarily in a row, she told a Senate panel Friday.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said he supports more physical activity in the classroom. He also cautioned lawmakers to let teachers use their creativity to determine when and how kids should be physically active.

Lee said teachers tell him they already keep kids moving around in school.

The exercise push piggybacks off a nutrition program passed last legislative session. The initiative aims to offer healthy breakfasts to all students by the 2015 school year.

Lawmakers are also considering cracking down on unhealthy food in the food stamp program. Buying sugary soft drinks or carbonated drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers or ice cream with food stamps wouldn’t be allowed in the proposal.

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