Schools Need Improved PE Classes for Every Kid, Every Day

Child laughingDr. Gregory D. Myer says the US public school system is dropping the ball on kids when it drops its investment in physical education (PE) classes. Budget cuts are increasingly cutting subjects like PE, art, and music and kids are suffering as a result. If more attention were paid to quality in PE classes rather than mere quantity in the number of minutes per day a child is offered physical activity, grades and classroom behaviors would improve. So would children’s health. He also feels the benefits of PE in school carry forward to improved health and high levels of achievement during adulthood.

Myer spends a lot of time thinking about kids and physical activity. He’s director of the Human Performance Lab at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where’s also director of research for its Division of Sports Medicine. He is lead author of a recently published commentary — “Sixty minutes of what? A developing brain perspective for activating children with an integrative exercise approach” — that prompted an interview with NPR.

Some of the NPR interview highlights include:

  • Cuts to PE classes and teachers have increased the need for physical movement in other classes. “If we made (kids) get up and do five minutes of activity before (sitting) down at that desk for the next hour, you’re probably going to get 15 to 20 more minutes of focused attention.”
  • Where PE class does exist, it’s geared more for adults (running two miles non-stop) than for kids who naturally “move in short bursts of activity.”
  • Kids need to be taught how to move instead of just being let loose without guidance. Self-esteem develops early and kids who feel self-conscious about how their body moves will likely never develop an active lifestyle.
  • If it isn’t fun, kids won’t do it. They need the time to master one physical skill before moving on to more and they need PE classes with real PE teachers to teach them.
  • Too many PE classes require sedentary reading and writing time. This time would serve the student better if physical moves and active hand-eye motor skills were developed instead.

A child’s physical activity and active play should not be left up to the school alone, according to Myer. Parents need to get involved, too. Parental involvement is especially important when a child feels awkward learning a new physical activity such as shooting hoops or swinging a baseball bat. They are more likely to learn with confidence under the guidance of a parent and carry improved moves confidently forward to the PE classroom surrounded by their peers.



Sources:

  1. Westervelt, Eric. "Learning To Move, Moving To Learn: The Benefits Of PE." NPR Ed. NPR, 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.
  2. "SHPPS 2006: School Health Policies and Programs Study." Department of Health and Human Services. Department of Health and Human Services, Oct. 2007. ERIC / Education Resources Information Center. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.
  3. "Adolescent and School Health: Physical Activity Facts." CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

 

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