In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the benefits of physical activity, as both a cure for obesity and prevention for several diseases and health-related issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, and more.
Particularly in North America this has extended to the growing awareness of childhood obesity and its relation to mandatory physical education.
While forcing students to run around a gymnasium or soccer field may not provide a permanent solution to childhood obesity, mandatory physical education provides a needed first step toward improving the health and wellness of young adults.
To increase effectiveness of the health benefits attainable through physical education, the curriculum should be achievable by all students. By removing the competitive element, physical education will become an enjoyable and productive class for all students rather than just athletes.
Many students have body issues, particularly during their pre-pubescent and teenaged years, which can be exacerbated in a physical education program that rewards those already in top shape and condition.
Allowing students of all shapes, sizes, and levels of experience to be rewarded in a physical education setting will provide the most success. Students should be rewarded for putting in their best effort and trying.
In addition to physical training, students should also receive education through their physical education class about nutrition, sexuality/puberty, and health in general. Educating students on all elements of health and wellness, rather than just fitness, will extend the benefits of physical education into other areas of life and promote wellness outside of the classroom.
Physical education alone will not decrease obesity or improve the fitness levels of students. By promoting proper nutrition and food choices, educating students about the bodily changes associated with hormonal changes during puberty, which can include weight gain, and exploring common health issues, students will gain a well-rounded education translatable to personal health and wellness.
To ensure the effectiveness of physical education, teachers of physical education classes should also be required to play the role of counselor to their students. While they do not need to set up sessions and discuss life issues with their students, they should be able to provide a welcoming, supportive, encouraging environment for all students.
Teachers taking on the role of a tough coach may cause students to remain reserved and sit back in class. Fun, inviting teachers who take the time to address the personal issues preventing a student from making the most of physical education classes will improve the overall effectiveness of the program.
While physical education is not a cure for obesity nor does it guarantee improved athletic condition, it provides accessible education about improved health and wellness, difficult to find elsewhere.