Why Schoolchildren should have a Daily Physical Education Class

Children attend school for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to learn how to interact with others. While economic cutbacks have reduced the number of physical education, art and music classes, the need for physical activity (and the arts) has never been greater.

Daily physical education classes are valuable for providing much needed activity, both mental and physical. They also help students learn good sportsmanship, social skills and more about themselves. Also, play provides an outlet for both physical and mental growth.

Physical development

Growing bodies need exercise on a regular basis to develop properly and to stay healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010, more than one in three students was considered overweight. The societal and personal costs of obesity include diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and many other health risks, along with their associated medical expenses, lost performance, and lowered quality of life.

Cognitive development

Research has shown that children who are physically fit and exercise regularly demonstrate improved “response times and accuracy” in their academic studies and problem-solving abilities. Lethargy, both physical and mental, can interfere with learning and performance. Regular physical exercise improves blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body, improving mood, performance and even ability.

Self awareness

Not every child will be a star athlete. Most people are only moderately talented at various sports and other physical activities. Daily physical education classes provide students with an opportunity to learn more about their bodies and their abilities while interacting with others. This self awareness leads students to develop more realistic expectations for themselves and others while developing positive lifelong habits.

Sportsmanship

Personal integrity and fairness are learned by interacting with others under a specified set of rules, such as in physical education class, even when they are not taught at home. Daily physical education classes provide an opportunity for students to learn to work with others, to play fairly and to have reasonable expectations of ability, effort and outcome. These are all valuable life skills.

Social skills

Playing on a team, taking turns and realizing that each individual is unique in both outlook and ability provides students with many social skills they will need as adults. The University of Chicago Crime Lab conducted a study showing that the involvement in sports and other pro-social activities reduced arrests for violent crime by 44 percent while increasing graduation rates by 23 percent. These figures are profound and significant indicators of the value of regular, supervised physical education. The value to the individual and society as a whole is immense.

The purpose of public education

Public education is in place to make individuals better prepared for adult life. Knowledge and skills gained help students find employment, be responsible citizens and to maintain a healthy social life. Education is not simply about facts and figures. Students need a healthy body as much as they need knowledge. Schools fail their students when physical education classes are reduced to weekly events or electives.