Children participate in a physical activity at a Denver elementary school.

(Photo: Courtesy of Denver Public Schools)
The Colorado Health Foundation says the state should improve and expand physical education for students, requiring physical education classes from elementary school through high school.

Shepard Nevel, the foundation's vice president for policy evaluation and communications, says Colorado ranks 24th in the nation for the percentage of school-age children who engage in physical activity. He adds the state is one of only four nationally that doesn't require the courses and one of four that doesn't require certification for physical education teachers.

"We know that physical activity is so important to address the obesity epidemic," Nevel says.

The call for more physical education classes is part of the foundation's annual Colorado Health Report Card.

The report card, released today, shows in the healthy children category, this year's grade improved to a "C" from a "D+" last year. Grades in two categories remained the same as last year: a "C" for healthy beginnings for newborns and a "B" for healthy adolescents. Last year's "B+" for two areas, healthy adults and healthy aging, both fell this year to "B" grades.

The report states: "Colorado’s adults and older populations stack up relatively well as compared to their peers in other states. Colorado attracts outdoor enthusiasts with mountains and sunshine. Our healthy adult population helps Colorado maintain a competitive advantage for economic growth and businesses."

But it also warns of some troubling trends.

"Take the state’s adult  obesity rate," the report states. "Although currently top in the nation, our rate has doubled in fewer than 20 years. Also, low-income Coloradans and ethnic minorities lag behind on most indicators."