Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is trying to encourage her fellow Kansans to move more, eat less and avoid tobacco, and she worries some kids aren't getting enough physical education.
Sebelius touched on those subjects as she helped kick off a "Steptember" campaign Monday at Topeka's downtown YMCA. Nationally, the YMCA is encouraging Americans to walk or run an additional 2,000 steps a day and consume 100 fewer calories a day.
The governor's remarks came less than a month after the nonprofit Trust for America's Health ranked Kansas the 26th heaviest state in the nation, reporting that 23 percent of its adults are obese.
"More and more schools seem to be limiting or eliminating physical activity as part of an overall curriculum," Sebelius said. "That's one of the, I think, essential programs. What they find is that kids who exercise regularly also do better in school."
In Kansas, high school students must pass one year's worth of physical education to graduate, but local boards of education determine how much time children spend in PE, said Cynthia Williams, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
Jim Edwards, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said that while some districts may be cutting back on PE, "We have had no indication from our members that there's an across-the-board move like that."
Still, the federal Centers for Disease Control said the percentage of high school students participating in daily physical education classes had dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 32 percent just a decade later.
"I am alarmed that a lot of kids' idea of physical exercise is to work their thumbs," Sebelius said.