The Importance of Physical Education Class in Schools for Youth Development

By Andrew H.

Coming from a very small town in rural Prince Edward Island, I was brought up being physically active every day because to be honest there was not much to do other than play outside with your friends.  In school, beginning in grade 1, we had an hour in the gymnasium 5 days a week to develop skills and form that would mold me into the man I am today.  Being active in school whether it was in class or during recess and intramural sports made us more active when we were home as well and that is where I see the issue with today’s youth.

“According to the 2005 Survey of Canadian Schools, almost all elementary and middle school students in Canada take at least one physical education class per week: The average is three days of physical education classes per week” (Active Health Kids Canada, 2007, p.18). Furthermore, The Canadian Population Health Initiative said that “Currently, fewer than one in five (16%) of Canadian schools are providing daily physical education” (The Canadian Population Health Initiative, 2004, p.131) For me, a university student hoping to become a physical education teacher someday, these statistics bother me on a few levels.  Obviously, this bothers me because it means that they will not need as many teachers and therefore I may have trouble finding work.  However, this also bothers me because I feel passionately about the importance of how vital it is to have kids active during school hours, it will help to lower obesity rates because even if that child goes home after school and sits on the couch then at least we know they got at least 45 minutes – 1 hour of exercise that day which can help on a small-scale (however it is shown that active children in school will often times be active outside of the classroom and have better health overall).  “Between 1978/79 and 2004, the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity among those aged 2 to 17 years increased from 15 per cent to 26 per cent.” (Public Health, 2012).  We all know how scary this statistic is yet we are still taking students physical education time away, in my eyes that is contributing to issue.

It is not only a student’s physical health that gets affected by lack of physical education, mental health is also an issue we must look at.  It has been proven that living a healthy active lifestyle will help to prevent and or help with mental health disorders.  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that “According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long-lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.” (ADAA, nd).  This basically says that if we can show students the importance of being active than they statistically will continue and therefore will have less mental health issues.

I don’t think there is anyone out there that can disagree that having children be active and healthy starting at a young age in school will only improve their lives.  I personally think that students should get at least one hour of physical education a day every day in schools across Canada.  These students are the future of our world and if they are shown the importance of an active lifestyle than we could lower physical and mental health issues for the present as well as the future.

Thank you for reading.

References

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Curbing Childhood Obesity; A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights, 2012.
  2. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2015, from http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety
  3. Physical Education in School. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.phecanada.ca/physical-education-school
  4. Class lectures
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5 Responses to The Importance of Physical Education Class in Schools for Youth Development

  1. kaylapainter12 says:

    You made some very interesting points regarding this topic. As you pointed out, it bothers me as well that schools are taking away physical education classes in a lot of schools, because I too want to become a phys ed teacher. I remember growing up, I would look forward to having gym class everyday. It was a chance to get away from doing school work and getting the chance to run around with your friends and playing games.

    I believe by providing children with a class that keeps them active for at least an hour throughout their school day, is extremely helpful for those children who aren’t interested in playing outside after school, or those who don’t play on sports teams. This gives them the opportunity to be active as well, therefore by taking these classes away would only increase obesity rates. Also, if there was a child who hadn’t been interested in a sport before but started playing it in gym class with his/her friends, they may begin to like it more and more and may want to be enrolled in it outside of gym class. Physical education classes are extremely vital for youth, it’s the opportunity for them to try new sports and learn about them at a young age, which can increase the chances of them wanting to participate in them outside of school.

    Great Post!

    Kayla P.

  2. Kirstin33 says:

    I have to agree with you completely, schools need to realize the value gym class has for their students. Not only will it help with their physical and mental health but also the idea of “rational recreation” that by giving students a break from school work to exercise and have fun they will be more productive in class. Students who have a hard time focusing for long periods of time could really benefit from having a gym class. Once students reach high school it is even more unlikely that they will have a chance to have gym class (After grade 9 I did not have gym class).

    For youth who come from a low social class or who have busy parents they may not get a chance outside of school to have structured program for physical activity. Giving them the chance to have a high yield activity that will allow them to have a good experience will help the youth develop. We need to bring back gym class to every age group, especially now that the percentages of youth who get enough vigorous activity is very low.

  3. davidgillis25 says:

    With the number of physical education classes,teachers being cut and the increase in screen time it would seem that the challenges our youth’s health face will only worsen. Physical activity is important for the health of our children and by eliminating the time spent in the gym it’ll have a negative impact on our children and eventually adults.

    There are children who face more barriers to participate in organized sport than their peers. Coming from rural areas, lower socio-economic status and poor parenting means that some of the only physical activity these children have access to is from the school environment. The decrease in time spent in physical education class may have short term health affects like increased obesity rate but are we forgetting the risk to physical literacy? Physical literacy means that the children will understand how to use their body for sport and exercise. By eliminating the chance to be taught by a certified teacher on how to move we not only set our youth up for childhood obesity but also being adults who have no clue where to start when it comes to moving little alone exercising.

    Great post Andrew,

    David G

  4. sthorne95 says:

    Great post Andrew!

    I too come from a small community. I attended the same school from kindergarten right through to grade 12 as it is a K-12 school. Even though it may sound like a big school because it’s K-12, there is actually only 170 students altogether (less than that when I attended). My point is, that it is amazing to see how differently each level of school is treated. When I was in school, Phys. Ed started in grade one, I believe it was, and we got an hour of gym time every day. Phys. Ed now starts in kindergarten at this school and I believe the kids only get 25 minutes of gym time. They only allow middle school kids 50 minutes in the gym maybe 2-3 times per week, and high school Phys. Ed classes no longer exist.
    Because of the tremendous amount of cutbacks in Phys. Ed classes, jobs for gym teachers are going down the drain, which like you, I had originally intended on being one myself. Linking your post to mine, this could potentially be a major reason as to why the obesity epidemic continues to increase. For some children, gym class is the only time they get to participate in physically active activities, so what happens when they scrap gym class altogether? Kids need gym, it’s a given. It’s proven that getting them out of the classroom for an hour per day to participate in other activities increases their ability to learn when they are in the classroom. What student wants to go to school and sit on their behind from 8:30am to 3:00pm? That’s just way too long.
    I think that schools are an important asset to kids’ lives and providing them with different forms of learning is the only way to keep them interested. As stated in the “Lost Adventures of Childhood” documentary we watched in class, children in Canada spent about 90% of there time indoors. We assume that this time is spent on sedentary behaviors and kids will not learn the value and importance of physical activity, healthy living, and the positive impact that these can have on their lives if we cut it out of their life completely.

  5. I enjoyed reading your post and thought you made some great points. Coming from a small town as well I found myself spending a lot of my time outside during the summer months. Personally I look forward to my education within youth development and someday hope to be teaching physical literacy skills to youth. Some of these statistics were hard to believe, but I have personally seen it implemented throughout schools during a co-op program I participated in. Many students are affected by this decrease in physical activity due to the fact that school is one of the only times where they actually participate in these activities. The world is changing and more youth tend to spend their time participating in leisure activities rather than recreation or sport. Technology keeps evolving every day and it is important for educational institutions to understand this factor. I am unsure of why institutions that strive in youth development decrease this amount of physical activity. The positive benefits it brings revolve around basic physical and cognitive abilities that are important for POD. These facts should be enough to determine the importance of physical activities and that they should be implemented more throughout the school system. Who knows what could happen over the next few years, but I hope they understand the importance physical activity has on youth and more opportunities evolve from this.
    Great post buddy!

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