Originally published July 29, 2020 by High School Insider at the Los Angeles Times.
By Susie Gu
The United States has long lagged behind other countries in education.
Pew Research reported in 2017 that the U.S. came in at 38th out of 71 countries when it comes to math and placed only 27th in science. Washington Post reports that the U.S. came in at 24th in reading literacy back in 2015.
Given this poor academic performance on the world stage, many people have debated whether or not middle school students should be attending physical education classes on a daily basis when they should be improving their academic performance.
Today, the argument continues on this controversial subject. Although some people feel that physical education classes are unimportant, as many students already exercise during their breaks and extracurricular activities, exercise is just one of the many benefits of P.E.
P.E. is essential to student health, well being and also educational growth, which is why students should continue taking P.E. classes in middle school.
First of all, when teachers and parents say that students should be in another academic class instead of spending time in P.E., unfortunately, they are overlooking the fact that this extra academic class would result in more homework, tests, projects and studying. Although this may seem like a benefit to student learning and education, the reality is that this would cause more stress for young students, which is unhealthy for growing minds and eat up more of their time.
According to a new study by the Better Sleep Council, as reported in People, homework stress is the biggest source of frustration and stress for teens, with 74% of those surveyed ranking it the highest, above self-esteem (51%) parental expectations (45%) and bullying (15%).
When students are overwhelmed with schoolwork, they cannot concentrate or focus. Replacing P.E. with another academic class would just add to this burden of stress on students, which is actually detrimental to their learning.
Further, P.E. has other benefits. P.E. class promotes team-building skills and sportsmanship. For instance, students play lots of different sports such as volleyball, basketball and soccer. While playing these sports, students must cooperate with their team, even if they don’t want to, to get a good grade. This has been true in my personal experience, where teamwork counted as part of our P.E. class grade at school.
Not only that, but P.E. classes build a foundation for participation in activities later in life. Knowing how to work well in group settings is an important life skill for the future, as many jobs and careers call for negotiation and cooperation. P.E. class is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about forming stronger relationships and to get along with a variety of people.
Some critics assume that students who participate in extracurricular sports already gain these skills. However, P.E. grants opportunities to every student to exercise and cooperate with each other, not just kids who participate in extracurriculars. This means that kids who do not participate in sports outside of school, or whose parents cannot afford extracurricular activities, have a chance to be active and learn the team building and cooperation skills needed for their futures.
In addition, P.E. class allows the brain to rest and relax during a rigorous school day. Students can socialize with their friends and meet new people during P.E. where they don’t have to sit at a desk and work or listen quietly to the teacher. Not only that, but students also get to be outside, breathing fresh air instead of being confined in a classroom.
In a study published on ScienceDirect, researchers found that physical activity breaks have shown to improve students’ behavior, increasing the effort they put into their activities, as well as their ability to stay on task.
A class focused specifically on physical education helps students burn up any extra energy they might have accumulated during academic classes where they can’t move around as much. P.E. class provides a perfect escape and a bit of freedom during a demanding academic school day, which in turn helps students do better when they are in their academic classes.
Finally, P.E. keeps students healthy and fit. As everyone knows, these classes provide opportunities for increasing core body strength and improving balance and coordination, as well as flexibility. All of this helps young bodies to develop.
In a nation where obesity among youth is increasing, P.E. can address physical as well as mental health. The Center for Disease Control reports that in “children and adolescents aged 2-19 years in 2019… prevalence of obesity was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents.”
Obesity is generally caused by little to no exercise. By keeping fit, students can have better health, reducing the obesity problem in our country.
This is one of the many reasons why we must maintain P.E. classes. These activities help students increase stamina and fight obesity.
Schools should keep P.E. classes in middle school as a required subject. It is an indispensable part of the school day for students. If we keep physical education classes, not only will we be contributing to the fight against obesity, but also helping students relieve stress, and thus help them improve academically.
Physical education is a crucial class that should not be eliminated from the everyday schedule for students because it positively impacts their life.