6.9 Athletics and P.E.
In 1.7 What is Education For, Really?, we started Ed100.org at the highest possible level, with discussion about the purpose of education. This is often summarized as preparation for college, work and citizenship, but even more broadly, school plays a big role in the transition to adulthood. Teaching kids about the benefits of nutrition and exercise gives them lifelong skills to improve their health, give them more energy, and improve concentration. All of the above means better performance academically in core subjects as well as psychologically in everyday life.
Physical Education can provide benefits in three main areas: Physical health, Academic Performance and Psycho / Social interaction. Childhood physical activity and fitness patterns often persist into adulthood, as do many disease risk factors such as smoking and obesity. Physically active people need (and make) fewer visits to physicians, have lower hospital usage and require less medical attention overall than less active individuals. To the extent that PE courses help students develop habits of physical activity, they contribute to a healthier, less costly American population.
In order to make more of the school day and mitigate the chaos and conflicts of recess times, some schools have opted to add structure to recess by crafting it into a PE program. For example, Playworks.org is a national non-profit organization that offers a structured recess program.
Active Living Research is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which supports research to examine how environments and policies influence active living for children. According to their research, sacrificing physical education for classroom time does not improve academic performance. On the contrary, students whose time in school-based physical activity was increased maintained or improved their grades. And their scores on standardized achievement tests also improved, even though they received less classroom instructional time than students in control groups.
Organized, competitive sports are not a feature of all schools, and school budget pressures are causing unknown numbers of schools to drop their sports programs. This is a loss. In an article on the subject, education journalist Jay Mathews features a study by Mathematica Policy Research that shows “although math had the biggest impact of any skill on later earnings, playing sports and having a leadership role in high school also were significant factors.”
Physical activity plays an important role in reducing anxiety, depression and tension, and has positive effects on the emotional status of students of all ages. Physical activity results in increased self-esteem and perceived competence – elements that enable us to cope with mental stress.
Thanks to Peter Kuperman for help with this post