What Is Physical Education?

Some team sports such as soccer are played outside when part of a physical education course.
Physical education provides many benefits to children beyond just encouraging them to be more active.
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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Physical Education (PE) is a type of class in which elementary, middle, and high school students are usually required to participate. It emphasizes exercise, and sometimes health and nutrition. This class, sometimes known as gym class, usually takes place in a large gymnasium, but it can also take place outdoors. While there are a number of advantages to physical education, like most things, there are also a few disadvantages.

Exercise is typically the main goal of physical education. Sometimes, a PE teacher may instruct his student to perform drills or exercises. Other times, students may play games and sports. Basketball and dodge ball, for example, are two popular PE games. Larger schools may also have an indoor swimming pool that students can use during their gym class.

While many of these drills, exercises, and sports can be played indoors, sometimes a PE class should be held outdoors. Football, baseball, and golf, for instance, are typically outside sports. Weather permitting, some schools may even offer skiing or snowshoeing.

Online physical fitness classes may seem unusual, but with technological advances comes innovation. A few schools now allow their students to fulfill physical education requirements on their own time. This can be done by letting a student choose an activity to participate in. She can then keep track of how much exercise she has done. A teacher, coach, or parent is usually required to vouch for the student.

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Physical fitness in school, however, is not just about motivating students to become more active. It also helps younger students develop their psychomotor skills. Some elementary schools may also combine PE classes with health classes, educating students about healthy choices and nutrition as well. Traditional classes where students play sports also help them learn to work as a team.

There are a number of advantages to physical education, including health benefits. Studies show that regular physical exercise can help keep a person's body in shape. Additionally, because of the less formal structure of this class compared to other classes, Physical education also allows the students to socialize a little during school. Working as a team and making new friends can often raise a child's self-esteem.

On the other hand, some students may not enjoy this class as much as others. Students who are shy or not particularly good at sports, for example, may become victims of bullies during gym class. This can lead to negative self-esteem issues.

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Discuss this Article

lovealot
Post 5

@ latte31 - You make a lot of good points about the importance of physical education in schools. Right now, if schools are lucky, they go to P.E. classes once a week. Going everyday is what they really need.

Daily exercise provides students a way to combat obesity, learn communication skills, cooperation,and how to follow directions. They learn motor skills, how to follow the rules, and have fun.

Students also gain emotional advantages. Their self-esteem is increased and they usually just feel better with exercise. Recent studies have shown that physical exercise also does good things for your brain. It helps memory and the ability to focus on learning.

An important goal is to get P.E. back into the schools!

BabaB
Post 4

@ Bhutan - I agree with you, as I know many other people do. I remember back in the days of President Kennedy's emphasis on physical education and fitness (1960s), students had vigorous P.E. classes every day.

Unfortunately, with the emphasis on learning the basics and testing, physical education has taken a back seat to other academic skills. And, of course, budget cuts have put P.E. lower on the priority list. Elementary kids in my area are lucky to get P.E. class once a week. Many parents just aren't taking the responsibility to make sure their children get their exercise.

I like your idea about trying to find some alternate ways to get funding for courses being dropped from the curriculum. I think that the business community could offer some funds to enhance physical education and art classes.

Physical education is so important from elementary through high school!

Bhutan
Post 3

@Latte31 - I think that with the increase of obesity in children that school districts would think twice about cutting physical education because sadly without the physical education curriculum many children would get no exercise at all.

I wonder if public schools could do fundraisers and reach out to the business community to help save some of these physical education programs because children need physical activity in order to make their mind and body healthy.

It also helps them sleep better at night. Unfortunately, children nowadays spend most of their time in front of the television set watching television or playing video games.

latte31
Post 2

I agree with you and the ironic thing is that a physical education program actually helps children focus more. In fact, in Japan, the children start their day with physical education because it tends to calm children down the rest of the day and allows them to concentrate more on their education.

I also think that children really look forward to physical education games and it also allows them to learn about team work and playing with other children. I think that the value of a physical education curriculum is often underestimated.

It is really a shame that a lot of public school districts feel it is necessary to cut their physical education program.

Eviemae
Post 1

I think that physical education is a hugely important part of any student’s school life, and it is such a shame that so many of these kinds of courses are being cut across the country for different reasons. The importance of physical education has been clearly defined for years, but to no avail.

One huge factor is budget cuts. I live in North Carolina, and I know that we have been going through some major cuts in all state jobs and the like. They have actually discussed completely eliminating all arts and athletic programs in our county schools. Of course, we live in the poorest county of the state, but that is still pretty extreme.

Another reason that we are seeing a huge decrease in younger student’s access to physical education is due to excessive testing. Teachers claim that they cannot dedicate near as much time to such things as phys ed, which is not tested, as they should because they have to prepare the student’s for the state mandated tests.

Teachers can suffer some pretty rough consequences if their students do not have high enough test scores, not to mention the stress and strain it puts on the kids.

It’s a shame that kids just can’t be kids anymore.

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