The Role of Physical Education in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Open Access
Lyons, Matthew J
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Melissa Bopp , Thesis Supervisor
  • Jinger S. Gottschall , Honors Advisor
  • childhood obesity
  • physical education
  • physical activity
  • obesity
  • policy
Childhood obesity is a major health problem in the world, particularly in the United States. States’ Childhood obesity rates range from 8.7% to 26.1% according to the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) (State of Obesity, 2019). This range of obesity rates suggest that there may be different variables that are making one state to have such different rates of childhood obesity than another. Physical activity has been identified by researchers as a modifiable risk factor for the development of obesity (Pietiläinen et al., 2008). There is a lack of research behind physical education’s (PE) role in producing significant results in increasing physical activity and reducing obesity rates amongst pediatric populations. The purpose of this project was to examine the relationship between physical activity and obesity rates with physical education policy in each state. This study examined secondary data physical activity participation, obesity and overweight rates of high school students in each state from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, as well as state physical education policy in each state from SHAPE. Findings indicated that the differences between the states were for the most part insignificant. There were some significant results that found that states with better quality PE had higher rates of obesity/overweight high school students and higher levels of high school students who reported not attaining adequate levels of physical activity. These findings contradicted the hypothesis. A significant finding that supported the hypothesis was that states with better PE policy has higher reported PE class attendance. Future research should be conducted to further understand physical education role in combating childhood obesity.