Looking back on my public school journey through K-12th grade, it is hard to forget gym class. Technically called Physical Education, this nationwide requirement has forced kids to exercise for periods of time, experience team work, and learn about the value of an active life style. There is no doubt that there is some value in requiring kids to participate in gym class. Gym class has a respectable mission: “The healthy, physically active student is more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful,” (1). However, I question whether physical education is effective and if its value is worth the time and resources.
Although it varies from school to school, Physical Education as a whole is not an effective solution to promote fitness for a few reasons. First, the short time period (30 minutes after changing) only 2-3 times a week is not nearly enough for a child to become fit. Yes, burning maybe 100-200 calories a few times a week is a little helpful but not much. A week of gym may burn off a hotdog lunch if the student tries during the class. How often do kids try though? The second problem is that it is very easy in the majority of gym classes to not try at all. From what I remember, it is typically the kids who are obese that tend to try the least as well. Lastly, think about some of the most common gym class games: kickball, baseball, hiding in a parachute, Frisbee, etc. Some of the most popular games require almost no movement at all. Kickball, for instance, requires very little motion. In summary, gym class is has little impact in actually helping children become fit.
Consider how much time gym class takes up over the course of 12 years. Referencing my former schools, gym class is taken as frequently as core subjects like Math and Science. Is this really the best use of a student’s time? Classes devoted to computer programming, accounting, Excel, or SAT prep are some of the many more beneficial alternatives. In terms of resources, a school must have a gymnasium, gym equipment/toys, and a gym teacher. Although the gymnasium can be used for other purposes (basketball team, special events, etc) the other resources are entirely dedicated to Physical Education. Investing in more academic resources, after school activities, or even healthier lunches seems like a better allocation of funds.
The question is what is the best way to tackle the problem? Should Physical Education be completely removed as a requirement? Should the structure of gym be changed? There are numerous potential solutions. What do you think would be best?