WTF? Physical Education Doesn't Matter

WTF? PE doesn\'t matter?Today was the end of the year awards ceremony at my daughter’s school. A seventh grade boy, whom I love dearly, read a persuasive essay he had written about why they should have physical education class for 60 minutes a day every day.  His arguments ranged from health to curricular requirements, and the crowd of parents cheered his speech.

Unfortunately, recent studies in Europe have concluded physical education in schools makes no difference at all.

As schools face budget cuts and pressure from high stakes standardized testing, PE and recess are programs that are often cut. Congress has responded by allocating $320 million in grants to restore physical education programs in our schools.

A recent study in the UK calls into question the assumption that PE classes are essential for children’s health. Equipping children with ActiGraphs, the study found that PE classes mattered less than we think. According to Time Magazine:

The findings are remarkable: No matter how much P.E. they got during school hours, by the end of the day, the kids from the three schools had moved around about the same amount, at about the same intensity. The kids at the fancy private school underwent significantly more physical activity before 3 p.m. than the kids at the other two schools, but overall, when you look at entire days, they got no more activity. “Once they get home, if they are very active at school, they are probably staying still a bit more because they’ve already expended so much energy,” says Alissa Frémeaux, a biostatistician who was the primary analyst on the data. “The others are more likely to grab a bike and run around after school, or maybe join a sports club.”

It all balances out.  Kids that don’t get enough exercise in school make up for it when they get home, but is this really true? What about the couch potato, video game playing kid?  I just can’t accept this conclusion!

Time concludes that exercise does make you healthier and lowers your risk of diseases, but the real culprit is diet.

The new research comports with a growing body of data saying that exercise by itself has far less to do with your body mass than you think. In short, it’s the calories, stupid. You can exercise all you want, which will surely make you healthier — reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia, for instance — but unless you eat better, or less, it may do nothing to make you thin. All that money we have spent to get kids into P.E. might be better spent helping schools to serve fresh fruits and vegetables at lunch instead of tater tots.

I couldn’t agree more!  Ban the tater tots, but keep physical education in our schools!

Image by mikebaird on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. I agree, keep phys ed. But remember when we were kids (walking to school…uphill both ways?!) and gym class actually meant movement? Today, it seems that it’s a lot of sitting around while waiting for the teacher to test each individual kid. And at my stepdaughter’s school, P.E. splits the time with health class. (Always laughable to me, BTW, that they teach the kids about calories and energy and food choices, but the only food they serve at the school is fried.)

    But recess is also OFTEN cut. Why not do P.E. AND recess, esp. considering studies show that kids perform better with even a 15 minute recess. That way, kids are getting both mandatory activity and free play. What could be wrong with that?
    (Also, in my SD’s last TWO schools, the school periods are/were no less that an HOUR and TEN minutes apiece! That’s longer than some college courses! Talk about making kids stir crazy!)

  2. yep, at my daughter’s school they never play “real” sports at PE. It’s always Puppy Pound, Pacman, etc. and only for 15 minutes a few times a week.

  3. Kimberly says:

    In Texas we have a required minimum number of minutes children must be physically active each week. We can use a combination PE and recess. Our principal DOUBLED the amount of recess – results discipline problems down test scores up. Our kids get 90 minutes of PE and 150 minutes of Recess a week.

    To get more PE we would have to cut Art, Music, Tech class, and/or library. Our kids need all 5 types of specials class. Our kids get 45 minutes of Art, Music, Tech, and Library each a week in addition to their 90 minutes of PE.

    Something cool that coach does is play music and encourage dancing while kids are waiting their turn at a game. She teaches traditional sports (Basketball, baseball, golf, bowling, volleyball, soccer) She also has nontraditional games that encourage fitness and fun. One is chaos – a game similar to dodge ball, but only 4 kids at a time. They try to tag people out by throwing balls at each other.

    She also sponsors 2 clubs. In the fall walking/running club for 3rd – 5th grade (over 150 kids) and Soccer for 4th and 5th (over 100 kids) in the spring.

    In Texas PE is one of the last things cuts. Visual arts/dramatic arts are cut first. Then Library is cut. Music – choir and orchestra are cut first band is rarely touched (must have band for Football). PE isn’t cut very often because of the legal requirement.

  4. When I was at school P.E. was a waste of time. We stood around waiting for a turn at bat or at one end of the court waiting for the boys to hit us with the “dodge” ball. All it really did was make me loathe P.E. days. Honestly, I would rather my kid get the fresh fruits and vegetables, without the fried chicken, french fries, fried tater tots and soda for lunch and come home to ride a bike or go to the park.

  5. Many reports states the affects of PE as it relates to lowering the levels of obesity. Yet, that has never been the first concern of physical education. Teaching PE is about teaching students the skills to adopt an active and healthy lifestyle. This includes starting with teaching them basic movement skills to teaching games for understanding to teaching lifelong activities. I believe that PE is an necessity for all youth, young or older. My own PE experience was not the greatest, in fact it mainly involved playing basketball and doing fitness testing, or at least that is what I can remember. Now that I have been a PE teacher and have continued on to supervise PE student teachers, I know that training is necessary to provide quality PE teachers. I still see traditionalists teach the “trow out the ball” lesson, while it is important to teach the whole child. Focusing on the students is key and I believe that if your daughter or son is not receiving quality PE, it should be reported so we can train “traditional” PE teachers to teach more student centered and encourage them to be healthy and active children.

  6. “When I was at school P.E. was a waste of time. We stood around waiting for a turn at bat or at one end of the court waiting for the boys to hit us with the “dodge” ball. All it really did was make me loathe P.E. days.”

    This was my experience as well. I always felt that the school should’ve dumped the teaching team sports approach in favor of letting us spend 45 minutes in the fancy-schmancy varsity fitness center. That place had awesome strength training and cardio machines but no one except varsity athletes were permitted to use it :-(

  7. Physical Education?If i have an undergraduate degree in leisure and sports management, can I just obtain my teachers license to teach physical education at a middle or high school?or how long would it take to get my master?

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