...If Denver's Democratic Sen. Chris Romer has anything to say about it, yes.

Romer seeks to pass legislation aimed at combating childhood obesity by adding gym, recess and physical activity back into the school day.

Jessica Fender of the Denver Post reports:

The bill touched off a fight Thursday between cash-strapped schools that want local control and parent and health groups that worry about students' growing waistlines.

"There are a lot of different ways for them to fit in the 150 minutes," Romer said, referring to five days a week of half-hour physical activity. "We would love to rescue recess from the pressures of CSAPs and other standardized testing."

Senate Bill 131 passed unanimously out of the Senate Education Committee after advocates touted health benefits and studies that show physical activity improves academic performance.

Opponents such as Anna Lord, Manitou Springs school board president, said schools with limited resources shouldn't be required to sacrifice other subjects for the sake of physical health.

"I can't teach (my daughter) saxophone. And I can't teach my son calculus II," Lord said. But she can take her kids hiking and make them walk the dog for exercise, she added.

Underscoring Thursday's debate was Colorado's childhood obesity rate.

One in four Colorado children is either overweight or obese, according to statistics from the state public health department.

The portion of overweight and obese kids ages 2 to 14 dropped 3 percentage points between 2004 and 2007, according to the most recent figures available.
Romer's bill would require 30 minutes of physical activity for elementary school students each day, but he gave a loose definition of what that means. Schools could opt to extend recess, tack on extra gym time, take field trips or give in-class fitness breaks.

Schools have been cutting gym classes for years because of time constraints and the pressures of high-stakes testing, such as the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, said Eric Larson, director of physical education for Denver Public Schools.

Since 2002, there has been a 44 percent drop in the minutes that Denver students spend getting structured exercise each week, Larson said.

A dozen elementary schools in his district provide daily gym class. Eighteen send students to gym once a week. The balance falls somewhere in the middle.

For the bill to be effective, schools should opt for more gym time, Larson said.

"Students' movement in phys-ed is different than during recess or nonstructured time," Larson said. "You cannot monitor how much they move during recess."