Physical education (PE) is an integral part of ensuring a healthy future, not just for our kids but for the country as a whole. PE isn’t just about requiring kids to pull on some gym clothes and work up a sweat for an hour during the school day. It’s a key component to total well-being, healthy development, and a successful future. And not to mention that increased physical activity has proven to improve learning and lead to higher test scores in the classroom.
Benefits of PE
Take a gander at just a few PE benefits to see why physical education affects a lot more than just physical fitness.
- Sayonara, sedentary lifestyle. Kids are already required to sit for hours during the school day, and that’s not including time spent before and after school sitting around—watching TV, hanging out, and even sleeping. The effects of a sedentary lifestyle include increased risk of being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. These are expensive health issues that set kids up for a variety of other problems into their adulthood. PE gives kids a chance to move around.
- Increased attention span/academic performance. Physical activity helps to foster better academic performance. For one, having an outlet to release physical energy helps kids to focus better while in the class room. Physiologically, physical activity increases oxygen to the brain, increases brain neurotransmitters, and increases neurotrophins that aid in the survival of neurons in areas responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking. PE has been shown to increase test scores, academic engagement, and brain development.
- Confidence and social skills. On a physiological level, exercise increases neurotransmitters responsible for putting us in a good mood. Over time, exercise increases confidence by helping kids to feel better about their bodies. Practicing a skill and improving (shooting a 3-pointer, running a fast mile, even jump-roping 20 times in a row instead of 15) gives kids a confidence boost and reminds them that with hard work and consistent practice, they can achieve anything. Regular physical activity has been shown to decrease risky behaviors like partaking in drinking and drugs, too.
- Lifelong health. Physical education isn’t just about getting in that physical activity for a few hours per week. Quality physical education programs teach kids how to stay healthy for life.
These are only a few reasons we should all care deeply about whether or not our kids are getting the PE they deserve. But what can you do to help?
How to be a PE Advocate
Being a PE advocate means speaking up and making sure your child’s PE program is adequate. How can you do this?
- Arm yourself with the right tools. Check out the PE Advocacy Resources to familiarize yourself with the facts & myths about PE in schools as well as gain an understanding of what resources are at your disposal.
- Talk to the PE teachers. Ask how often PE occurs, and for how long. Ask to see their teaching plan for the year. Make sure their program aligns with national standards. Ask about how students are evaluated based on these standards.
- Talk to the principal. Make sure the principal and other school officials know how important PE is to you and your children. Let him or her know that you support quality PE taught by a professional with credentials, that you support evidence-based PE curriculum that has been developed with research, that you think adequate budget dollars must go to PE, that you believe PE teachers should have access to new and improved resources and tools, that you want PE grades to be factored into overall GPA.
- Talk to the school board. Attend school board meetings, and make sure your voice is heard. Get the community involved. Speak for what you believe in; what you believe is best for your children and children everywhere.
Being an advocate is being a supporter. Being a supporter for quality, evidence-based physical education means supporting a healthy childhood, adolescence, and adulthood for your kids and the kids of your neighbors and friends. And that means supporting a healthier future for all of us.
Talk to your kids, their teachers, and school leaders today to make sure PE is a priority. Every parent wants nothing more than the lasting health and well-being of their children, and PE is a great place to start.
Check out SPARK’s other advocacy resources for help.