Fitness in School and for Life
“The Olympic Games must not be an end in itself, they must be a means of creating a vast programmed of physical education and sports competitions for all young people.”
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”
John F. Kennedy
“The arts, sciences, humanities, physical education, languages and maths all have equal and central contributions to make to a student’s education.”
“Fitness is not about being better than someone else…It’s about being better than you used to be.”
“It is really important that we promote competitive support in schools. It is very important that we recognize that has to be underpinned by good quality physical education and by getting people into patterns of exercise.”
“It’s amazing to me that they’re cutting physical education programs in the school systems.”
“We don’t believe that you should ever replace physical education. Even in a thousand years, a computer will never be able to do so.”
While physical education may seem trivial class in comparison to “core” subjects, although physical education can play an important part in a person’s health, development, and overall personal growth. Through classes like physical education, people can learn valuable life lessons that can be applied in many scenarios. Physical education has been shown to improve academic achievement. People can also learn how to reduce their chances of contracting life-threatening afflictions in all stages of life. While also making a positive impact on alleviate and education on how to deal with mental health problems.
Key Words: Physical Education, Gym, Gym Class, Physical Fitness, Obesity, Heart Problems
For decades physical education has been a part of many schools curriculums, but in recent years many schools are not only cutting back on funding, but many are eliminating the class altogether. While physical education is not the only “elective” that is being eliminated it is arguably one of the most important. Physical education teaches lifelong skills and lessons that are more than just about becoming physically fit and how to maintain said fitness, with an emphasis on physical fitness from an early age we would see greater decreases in risks of obesity, heart disease, and mental health problems.
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Unlike many “core” classes that are taught in school such as literature, writing, social studies, math and science, physical education teaches many important life skills and lessons that people can use throughout their entire lives. In “core” classes there is an emphasis on independent growth and accomplishment, which does have some importance but in the real world, it is also important that a person be able to effectively work on a team. Teamwork is an important skill, especially in the job market. If a person can demonstrate their ability to effectively work on a team this could open up multiple doors that could lead to promotions, pay raises, and other benefits. In gym class, the opportunities to practice and perfect this skill are plentiful, from dodge ball to flag football there is not an area where this ability is not necessary. While other classes may present some opportunities to improve a person’s ability to work on a team there is no substitute for the abundance of ways it is instilled into students during gym class.
Effective communication skills are another lesson that is taught in physical education. While other classes may teach effective ways to verbally communicate gym class not only teaches effective verbal communication skills but it also encourages people to pay attention to the body language as well, both of your teammates and of the members of the other team. The ability to effectively understand body language is a skill that is important when going into an interview and in many careers.
Learning to be a leader is another lesson that is taught in gym class, as opposed to other classes in gym class when people are working on an activity. Having a leader is almost necessary. A leader during gym activities gives other people on the team a unified voice to help lead them to victory. Having a leader helps promote improved self-esteem, and confidence. Knowing how to be a leader is an important skill that many employers look for when hiring a possible employee. While many schools see physical education as unimportant, in reality unlike other classes physical education teaches many important lessons and skills that can be applied to real life.”
Physical Education not only has real-world benefits but increased fitness and exercise can also be beneficial to students in the classroom. In the article “Physical Fitness, Grit, School Attendance, and Academic Performance among Adolescents” where J Cosgrave, Y Chen, and D Castelli (2018) state, “Physical activity interventions like Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC) and Fitness Improves Thinking (FITKids) that increase physical activity participation and subsequently improve cardiovascular fitness also increase overall academic achievement , executive function (Hillman, Pontifex, Castelli, Khan, Raine, Scudder, Drollette, Moore, Wu, and Kamijo, K., 2012), and cognitive control [12, 13]” (pg.1). This shows that not only is physical activity beneficial to a person’s health but it can also beneficial to a person’s academic success, and overall cognitive function.
A similar sentiment is expressed in the article “Physical Activity and Student Performance at School” where H Taras (2005) argues, “Physical activity improves general circulation, increases blood flow to the brain, and raises levels of norepinephrine and endorphins—all of which may reduce stress, improve mood, induce a calming effect after exercise, and perhaps, as a result, improve achievement.1,2” (pg. 214). This claim shows that there actual physiological benefits that could translate to positive academic results.
Another beneficial aspect of gym class is the way that it encourages children to be active and when a child is active they are less likely to suffer from childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is one of the largest growing problems in America. In the past decades, obesity has become one of the leading problems affecting many children in America. Not only does it affect their physical health but it also has a large impact on their mental health as well. According to the article, “Percepción de los escolares obesos con respecto a su participación en la clase de Educación Física y su nivel de autoestima: comparación según el estado corporal” by P Delgado-Floody, et al, (2018):
Childhood obesity has become a global public health problem of growing concern in industrialized nations (1,2), around 55% of obese children go on to be obese in adolescence and around 80% of obese adolescents will still be obese in adulthood (3). In general, overweight and obesity are assumed to be the result of an increase in caloric and fat intake. School-age obesity is associated with psychosocial problems such as deficiencies in social co-existence and quality of life (5). It has been observed that obese children tend to have effective problems, mainly low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and depression (5-9) (pg.1271).
With classes like physical education in schools, children learn fun ways to maintain and improve
their health. In the article “Physical Education and Sport in Schools: A Review of Benefits and Outcomes” R Baily (2006) also states, “physical activity in health, positively enhances self-confidence and self-esteem, and enhances social and cognitive development and academic achievement” (pg.397). This also proves that physical education is even more important for young children because they are still going through a major stage of their mental development and if they are taught that physical fitness can be fun while they are still impressionable they will be more likely to want to be physically active as they get older.
Not only do the fitness lessons taught in physical education help fight against obesity in children, but they also help fight against heart problems that could plague them later in life. Heart problems are one of the leading causes of death in America and having classes like physical education early on in life to teach people ways that they can be physically fit, could possibly eliminate many possible causes or symptoms of heart problems that they could experience later in life. This is expressed in the paper “The association between physical fitness and health in a nationally representative sample of Canadian children and youth aged 6 to 17 years” by J Lang, R Larouche, and M Tremblay (2019) states, “Studies indicate that some components of physical fitness, such as CRF, in late adolescence may predict future comorbidity, cardiovascular diseases, and all-cause mortality in adulthood” (pg. 104). This shows that physical fitness early on in life can help prevent possible cardiovascular problems and death later in life. A similar sentiment is also expressed in the paper “Mini Review: Physical activity and fitness and its relations to cardiovascular disease risk factors in children” by K Froberg and LB Andersen (2005):
Physical activity or fitness during adolescence was not associated to cardiovascular disease risk factors in young adulthood, but changes from adolescence to adulthood in fitness were related to risk in adulthood and to changes in risk from adolescence to adulthood, that is, subjects who decreased their fitness level also changed to a worse risk factor profile (pg. S37).
This shows that physical fitness throughout life starting at a young age and continued on throughout life can benefit a person’s lifelong fitness.
Cardiovascular and obesity problems are not the only issues plaguing American society in recent years the emphasis on people maintaining positive mental health, and many physical education instructors believe that physical education can have a positive impact. Rossford High School’s physical education instructor Todd Drusback, for example, expresses that “unlike other classes, physical education teaches not only ways to maintain fitness but it also teaches positive conflict resolution skills and emotional control which allows students to let down their guard down, relax, and de-stress in a normally mentally strenuous environment. A similar position is expressed in the article “Understanding adolescents’ mental health and academic achievement: Does physical fitness matter?” written by M Xiang et al, which states “Our results suggest that developing healthy individuals who are physically fit and show positive mental functioning may benefit academic achievement during adolescence” (pg. 657). The results of this study prove that physical fitness can be a suitable way for people to treat some mental health problems.
The real issue with getting rid of physical education in our school systems is that without the class we could see a downfall in society as we know it. Without physical education, people would not have a regular outlet to learn and develop valuable life skills, needed for real world and academic success. With our society becoming ever more sedentary there would be little to no place where people are encouraged and taught healthy habits at an early age which could be medically beneficial later in life. Mental health issues in children, adolescents, and even adults could see a rise without physical education in our schools giving people an outlet to express their issues in a healthy, safe, and controlled scenario. Even though eliminating physical education may give schools more time in their day to focus on “core” subjects that students will be tested on by the government, in the long run, it would be a disservice not only to the students but it could also mean the collapse of society.
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- Bailey R.(2006). Physical Education and Sport in Schools: A Review of Benefits and Outcomes. Journal of School Health 76(8), 397-401 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2006.00132.x
- Cosgrove, J. M., Chen, Y. T., & Castelli, D. M. (2018). Physical Fitness, Grit, School Attendance, and Academic Performance among Adolescents. BioMed Research International, 2018, 1–7. https://doi-org.owens.ohionet.org/10.1155/2018/9801258
- Delgado-Floody, P., Cofré-Lizama, A., Guzmán-Guzmán, I. P., Mayorga, D. J., Martínez-Salazar, C., Caamaño-Navarrete, F., … Jerez Mayorga, D. (2018). Percepción de los escolares obesos con respecto a su participación en la clase de Educación Física y su nivel de autoestima: comparación según el estado corporal. Nutricion Hospitalaria, 35(6), 1270–1274. https://doi.org/10.20960/nh.1786
- Froberg K, Andersen LB. (2005) Mini Review: Physical activity and fitness and its relations to Cardiovascular disease risk factors in children. International Journal of Obesity. 2005;29:S34-S39. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803096.
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- Lang, J. J., Larouche, R., & Tremblay, M. S. (2019). The association between physical fitness and health in a nationally representative sample of Canadian children and youth aged 6 to 17 years. Maladies Chroniques et Blessures Au Canada, 39(3), 104–111. https://doi.org/10.24095/hpcdp.39.3.02
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- Taras, H. (2009). Physical Activity and Student Performance at School, http://nycphysicaleducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Physical-Activity-and-Student-Performance-at-School.pdf
- Xiang, M., Gu, X., Jackson, A., Zhang, T., Wang, X., & Guo, Q. (2017). Understanding adolescents’ mental health and academic achievement: Does physical fitness matter?. School Psychology International, 38(6), 647-663. doi:10.1177/0143034317717582