Kickball, crab soccer, dodgeball, jump rope – for most adults, all these activities bring back memories of fun times spent in PE. It was a great way to burn off steam and learn something about a new sport, all while absorbing the importance of staying physically fit. PE definitely contributes to teachers actually being able to do their job (and preserving their sanity in the process!) by giving kids a place to release all of their pent up energy, so that they can then buckle down and focus on their school work. Unfortunately, the next generation may grow up without those same memories and all the benefits that come with them.
Due to how common it has become for PE to be removed from our nation’s schools, Voices for Healthy Kids and SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, just released an update to the Shape of the Nation report on the state of physical education and physical activity in the American education system. The report, which is designed to help advise physical education policies and practices, shows significant and sometimes striking differences in statewide policies regarding physical education programs in the schools.
For example, only Oregon and the District of Columbia meet the national recommendations for weekly time in physical education at both elementary and middle school levels, which is currently set at 150 minutes for elementary students and 225 minutes for secondary students. On the other hand, few states set any minimum amount of time that elementary, middle school/junior high and high school students must participate in physical education. Texas is among those states, requiring students to take physical education in grades K-8, but does not have a requirement for the number of minutes. For high school students the findings are particularly troubling, with only six states establishing minimum times that students must participate in physical education, even though the positive impact on their physical, mental, and emotional health is well-documented. Studies show that active children consistently outperform less active students academically in both the short and the long term. They also demonstrate better classroom behavior, greater ability to focus, and lower rates of absenteeism.
When you consider that 32% of the nation’s children and adolescents are at an unhealthy weight, and the majority are living sedentary lifestyles, you quickly realize that this issue should be a top priority for lawmakers. Creating and nurturing opportunities in schools for students to get the recommended amount of time in PE, while addressing the quality of instruction as well, is one of the most cost-effective approaches to combating this growing health crisis. That’s why Voices for Healthy Kids created the #ProtectPE campaign designed to unite parents, community leaders, and public health advocates around local and state-based efforts to strengthen physical education in the schools; advocates like LaShonda Cameron of Houston, TX, a Physical Education teacher who knows first-hand how important PE is to the health and future of Texas’s children.
For National Physical Education and Sports Week, LaShonda shares her perspective:
"Physical education is very important to the well-being of growing youth. Inactive and unhealthy youth turn into inactive unhealthy adults, so this is not a generational issue. Students need to be taught the benefits of having an active lifestyle versus a sedentary one if we hope to improve the chances of a healthy adult lifestyle.
In my experience, students are very receptive to knowledge about their bodies, fun ways to stay active, and the benefits of a life with movement incorporated. For this reason, I am puzzled as to why the thought of removing physical education from school is even a discussion when there are an abundance of studies that find significant benefits, both educationally and physically, for students. I see this proven every day for myself. It brings me joy as I see the students in my classes realize that being physically active is not complicated, fun with innovation, beneficial educationally, and most importantly, rewarding. Even better, with this insight, I have seen students positively influence their friends and families with the knowledge they have obtained. In this way, PE in schools has the potential to influence not just the students, but the community as a whole.
My students are making informed decisions about diet and exercise because of what physical education provides, something that no other subject does. The simple fact that it betters the chances of an active adult lifestyle should be reason enough to #ProtectPE because the next generation will be tomorrow's leaders.
Join me to #ProtectPE by informing your elected officials how important PE is for both our kids and our communities. Use this easy action alert to send your emails now. #Protect PE, it's a no-brainer!"
Physical Education Teacher
Elsik 9th Grade Center
Alief Independent School District