How Important Is Physical Education? Half The U.S. Says Not Very!

How Important Is Physical Education?  Half The U.S. Says Not Very!

A new report by the American Heart Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education found that PE classes aren’t a priority in American schools, according to CNN. The report,  “The 2010 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA,” found that although there have been some improvements in making PE a requirement in schools, more than half of all states (32) are taking advantage of loopholes that give students a chance to “skip” PE, with waivers and exemptions for other activities, such as band or cheerleading.

“Physical education is more than just kicking a soccer ball around. It’s learning about healthy habits, nutrition, and PE helps kids understand the importance of staying active,” says Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “Every student should be taking PE.”

Schools do seem to be headed in the right direction: the number of states requiring PE is up by 17 percent since 2006. However, the report found only five states required physical education in every grade from kindergarten through 12. It also noted that only one state, Alabama, actually requires the recommended 150 minutes per week of PE in elementary schools and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students.

PE can be a complicated subject, especially with obesity being such a problem. I remember being in high school and dreading PE; nobody wants to get all sweaty for half an hour and then go back to class. In my school, we weren’t given adequate time to shower, and showering in front of your classmates is pretty awkward, anyway. At one point I also remember it being “cool” to be really apathetic and not participate in gym, since that was easier than showing off how physically fit we weren’t…and it didn’t ruin our makeup. In addition, budget cuts made my school’s PE classes co-ed halfway through high school, and our male teacher would organize activities for the boys while telling the girls to amuse ourselves by walking perimeters around the school. I remember actually liking the few days we’d spend in the weight and cardio room, though many schools aren’t equipped with such facilities.

PE should be a positive way to get students active and care about fitness from an early age. It’s a difficult challenge, but it’s clear that more needs to be done to make PE a priority, and inclusive to all students.

Photo: NYSUT