Physical Education vs. Physical Activity [INFOGRAPHIC]

by SPARK


The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing! Although they work together like peanut butter and jelly, Physical Education and Physical Activity are two separate things — and it’s important for teachers and parents to understand the difference.

physical activity vs physical education

 

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Physical Activity

— any bodily movement that involves physical exertion

  • A physical activity program gets you up and moving, in some form. This can include recreational sports, fitness classes, after-school programs, and recess.
  • Physical activity is unstructured
    • Kids can make their own choices and create their own rules
    • Helpful for learning social skills and problem solving techniques
  • Just some of the things that count as physical activity…
    • Dancing
    • Walking the dog
    • Doing push-ups
    • Throwing a baseball
    • Playing tag at recess
    • And much more!
  • Physical activity is one part of a physical education program — but physical activity can be found in many areas outside of physical education.
  • Physical activity should be incorporated throughout the day: before and after school, and during recess

Physical Education

— curriculum-based program that teaches students the benefits of physical activity, builds techniques for leading an active lifestyle, and promotes lifelong healthy habits.

  • A physical education program not only gets children moving, but also teaches them why that activity is important, what types of activity benefit your body, and how you can stay active throughout your life.
  • Physical education is structured
    • Students are taught how to play and skills needed to play
    • Students learn the rules for how to play games and participate
    • There is a structured warm-up and cool down
  • Physical education teaches children the importance of being physically active and about the human body and body systems
  • Physical education programs include:
    • A written curriculum, with clear objectives
    • Some form of grading or assessment
    • Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes
    • Physical activity for most of the class time
    • Lessons in ways to lead a healthy lifestyle through physical activity, nutrition, fitness, and social responsibility
  • Physical education incorporates physical activity, along with many other things, to form a complete program.

Do You Need Both?

Yes, you do!

According to SHAPE America, physical activity should make up at least 50% of a physical education program.

Benefits of Physical Activity:

  • Releases endorphins
    • Children who get at least 15 minutes of recess a day behave better in class than students who get less than 15 minutes a day.
  • Strengthens muscles / bone density
    • Children ages 6-17 should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
  • Reduces risk for diabetes, obesity, depression, and heart disease
  • Enhances cognition
    • Children respond to cognitive tasks faster and with greater accuracy after a session of physical activity.

Benefits of Physical Education:

  • Teaches safe and correct exercise techniques
  • Promotes good nutrition and understanding of the body
  • Encourages lifelong health habits, decreases chances of unhealthy adult lifestyle
    • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • Enhances academic performance
    • Endurance exercise increases oxygen to the brain, strengthens neurotransmitters, and stimulates brain growth — improving your ability to think, learn, and retain information.
    • In physically fit children, the hippocampus (region of the brain affecting learning and memory) is roughly 12% larger than less fit children.
    • In a study of D.C. schools, students received higher standardized math scores when schools provided at least 90 minutes of physical education per week.
  • Builds skills in setting and achieving goals

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  • Timothy Makubuya

    Thanks for providing this important resource. There are many that are misinformed and this differentiation would help to provide guidance.

  • Tom Loughrey

    Very important distinctions to make, and it should be emphasized that a Quality Program of Physical Education meets individual interests and needs, while building a strong base of knowledge that enhances the development of a healthy and active life. Making physical activity meaningful to each learner and instilling the desire and self-efficacy to live an active life is the hallmark of a physical education curriculum. It should always be emphasized that by providing a Quality Physical Education program, the foundation is set for the individual to be more likely to seek out opportunities to participate in physical activity during their discretionary time. Developing a positive motivational climate for self-regulated learners is a key aspect of this effort.