07/20/2012 06:17 pm ET

Table Talk: Cutting Physical Education

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

A recent study of American physical education policy revealed some discouraging news: just six states are holding firm to the National Association of Sport and Physical Education’s recommended two and a half hours per week of phys ed in elementary school.

Among other startling statistics in the study: zero state policies meet the association's recommendations for high school. And while the government has been trying to make kids’ school meals healthier, it seems gym class is still not a top priority for many schools. A recent New York Times piece noted:

Principals most frequently blame budget cuts, and in New York, they also cite pressures to devote resources to test preparation, and what one union leader called a lack of interest from the department headquarters.

Experts across the board agree that physical activity is an essential part of healthy living; exercise fights diseases, gives you more energy, and can even make you happier. The CDC recommends that kids get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day -- something many don’t have time to do outside of school. For all these reasons, gym class is important. As Rae Pica wrote on the HuffPost Education blog last year: “Someone needs to help children retain the love of movement with which they're born so they will keep moving.”

Questions for discussion:
  • Do you have gym class at your school?
  • What kind of exercise do you do outside of school?
  • Does exercise make you feel healthier?
  • What activities can you do as a family to stay fit?

In her cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.