State flunks physical fitness test

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JACKSON - The Governor's Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports has given the state failing grades.

"I asked them, when they issued the report card, to simply tell it like it is," Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said at a news conference Monday. "We got F's."

Musgrove is backing a state law to mandate physical activity for students in grades K-6. The program would require 30 minutes of exercise a day.

The commission graded Mississippi after looking at statistics from behavioral risk surveys, physical activity reports, chronic disease studies and other information, including material from the American Heart Association and state Department of Health. Levels of physical activity were measured based on responses from telephone surveys and questionnaires administered to public high school students.

Current state law suggests but does not mandate or direct funding toward physical activity for students or hiring a physical activity coordinator.

The bill by Rep. Mike Lott, R-Petal, also calls for the state Department of Education to employ a physical activity coordinator for grades K-12.

"Let's make sure a couple of years from now the 'F' stands for fit," said State Health Officer Ed Thompson.

A serious concern in the state is the rising number of children diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is also referred to as noninsulin-dependent diabetes.

"Type 2 was normally (found in adults) over 40, overweight, typically with a hereditary component," said American Diabetes Association executive director Chris Bates. "We're seeing more and more early onset of Type 2 because of obesity and an increase of sedentary lifestyles."

About 13 percent of Mississippi high school students are overweight compared with 10 percent nationally, and the percentage of obese adults is increasing, according to the governor's commission report.

Mississippi's adult obesity rate has climbed steadily over the past 10 years by 66 percent, a rate 25 percent above the national average, the report shows.

The 2000 national obesity average of 19.8 percent is up from 12 percent in 1991, according to a government survey in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mississippi's rate of 24.3 percent for obesity was the highest in the nation, the JAMA authors reported.

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