By Teachers, For Teachers
Is your school considering dropping physical education? Is recess going by the wayside in favor of another hour of math class? If so, you may want to encourage the administration to rethink this. There are some important benefits to physical education that you don't want to ignore.
Childhood obesity rates are rising at an alarming rate. From 1980 to 2012, the percent of children aged 6 to 11 who are obese has more than doubled. The 12-to-19 age group’s obesity rate went from 5 percent to 21 percent in the same time frame. The Centers for Disease Control warns that more than a third of all children in 2012 were overweight or obese.
This is a serious problem, and it affects all aspects of these children's lives, from their ability to function in school to their social skills and emotional health.
Lack of physical education is just one of many causes of this problem. Poor dietary choices on the part of many parents and the fast-food culture of our society, combined with a large number of electronic pastimes, are also contributing factors, but schools can only do so much to change these. Schools can, and should, insist on physical education and recess as a way to combat childhood obesity levels.
Fighting obesity is just one benefit of regular physical education. Children who are routinely active and have access to physical activity are at lower risk for heart disease, have lower blood pressure and have stronger bones and muscles. Motor skill development is also helped by regular physical activity.
Today's physical education classroom is different than the gym class of the past. Rather than pitting children against one another in athletic competitions, today's gym teacher creates a positive environment where students are encouraged to be active. This positive approach to physical education can help foster stronger peer relationships, even among kids who are not at the same level of physical fitness.
In addition, sports, dances and similar physical activities tend to be the social gatherings of older children. Physical education class gives a platform in which students can learn the skills they need for these social activities in the future.
Recess and physical education give kids the opportunity to get active and take their minds off traditional schoolwork — it’s a period of stress release in a busy school day. The American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that optimal cognitive processing in a child requires a period of interruption after instruction. They also indicated that periodic breaks from the academic day were beneficial to students of all ages. Physical education class and recess both provide this break, making kids better able to learn and process the information they are receiving from their teachers.
When teachers work together, gym class can also enforce the subjects taught in other classes. It can provide a real-life lab application for topics they’re learning about in science and math class, for example. The science or math teacher can point to the activities performed in P.E. as an example of important classroom concepts.
Finally, students benefit from improved emotional health when they get regular physical fitness instruction. Physical activity releases tension and anxiety, serving as a great stress reliever for many kids. Once stress has been released, kids are better equipped to face the challenges of the classroom and their social lives with greater emotional stability.
Physical fitness training can instill a strong sense of self-worth and self-confidence, especially for those students who struggle in the classroom. By working hard to attain a physical goal, students are able to gain a sense of achievement, which provides great emotional benefits.
Yes, physical education is important — just as important as algebra and English. If your school is talking about cutting physical education or recess time, put up a fight. Your students need these programs!
About the author:
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Superior Playgrounds in Carrollton, GA. Superior Playgrounds is a total solutions manufacturer and supplier to industries like day care centers, schools and churches. They supply outdoor play equipment and components, including slides, bridges and climbers.