Physical education is a vital part of childhood development. While many are eager to say that physical education has been lost to time, in a world still relying on people working with their hands in specific industries, they need to be physically developed.
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Now, let’s take an in-depth look at 12 physical education facts, data, and statistics.
Physical Education in Schools
Once kids leave their homes to go to school, they’re essentially at the mercy of the educational system. This sometimes includes food, environment, and – of course – physical activity.
Schools shouldn’t only educate children on how important it is to be fit but also make physical activity engaging and fun. After all, anyone who’s spent time with children will know they’re much more likely to do something that they find fun.
- The main purpose of physical education in schools is to create a structured program of high-intensity and medium-intensity activities in that children can participate. It’s theorized that even though this is the goal, PE teachers aren’t creating individualized programs to adjust for differences in high and low performers. Studies also suggest more time is needed in PE to help kids develop their cardiovascular and neurological function.
- Contrary to popular belief, physical education appears to make kids smarter. A study in 2013 found that kids who are engaged in regular PE performed better in cognitive function tests, such as mathematics. It’s also been proposed that regular PE is linked to better mental health and better mental tools to cope with everyday stress.
- Obesity has become rather ubiquitous in children and adults, having doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. It – thus – isn’t surprising that ED has been decreasing in prevalence in schools. Less than 8% of all schools actually provide PE or something similar, and a whopping 22% of schools don’t require children to partake in any PE.
Student Participation in Physical Education Is Declining in the US and Around the World
It’s no secret that general health has taken a hit worldwide – especially in the last few years. For instance, the recent COVID-19 pandemic shows just how unprepared some countries around the world are. And when looking at physical education, some are equally as woefully equipped.
- While the world is growing more obese daily, you’d start at the basic level of education to fix this problem. While most of the world is bound to provide some form of PE, it seems like there’s a large gap between the promise and reality of Phys. ed. for children and most kids don’t get enough PE.
- The number of 1 – 13-year-olds engaged in three hours of physical education and other school sports increased by 5% from 2008-2009 to 2010-2011. While this is great news, there still seems to be a decrease in physical activity as children age.
- Australia saw an increase in obesity rates from 63.7% to 67% from 2014 to 2018. It’s also no coincidence that 75% of Australian students report only doing PE once per week. 22% do it twice, and only 3% participate three times or more per week.
- It’s theorized that developing countries suffer more in regard to PE. However, even developed countries like Canada suffer. Only 22% of Canadian kids claim to have a PE class/opportunity daily.
Physical Education Trends in the US
While America used to be one of the leading countries when it came to overall health and fitness, times have – of course – changed. With the influx of technology and advanced systems, both children and adults have become more sedentary than ever.
- While adults are often encouraged to exercise at least four times per week, a 2017 survey found that only 51.7% of high school students in the U.S. attend a PE class weekly. That said, 29.9% of high school students attend a PE class daily. While the latter stat may seem great, the average is still quite low.
- How low is the average, you might ask? Over the period 1991 to 2015, half of all high school students in the United States did not attend any PE classes. Furthermore, the number of students attending PE daily dropped by 16%.
Continued Investment Is Needed for Physical Education
How do you get better at anything in this world? Easy – you work on it. Clearly, more financial and time investments are needed to get the best for the children of tomorrow.
- While there’s clear evidence that active kids perform better than sedentary kids in basic education, physical education is declining in all corners of the planet. This may be due to the massive increase in technology, and in other countries – besides the US – the value of quality PE is even being challenged. With so much misinformation on social media, there really ought to be more investment in quality PE.
- What about costs? The world, as all adults know, runs on money. A Benefit-cost method posted in 2019 shows that for every dollar that’s invested in PE, there was a return of $32. This return found its way through reductions in crime, a more educated workforce, employer-paid health insurance, and less spending on health care. It’s also well known that obesity rates have caused an increase in insurance costs.
- With the overwhelming amount of data supporting more PE for growing children, governments are looking to increase activity levels in kids, both in and out of school. A trial will have PE teachers receive a two-week program on how to promote physical activity in environments outside of school. By creating urgency and a lure to be more active in everyday life, we could see massive increases in activity levels in children.
Has Physical Activity Decreased in Schools?
When looking at the various benefits of physical activity, you’d think that adults would make a greater effort to have their children be more active.
Unfortunately, most adults are obese, and they’re less likely to advocate for a healthy lifestyle, which could lead to health consequences like:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes
- Greater risk of developing obesity or disproportional adipose tissue being carried
- Inactive individuals are more likely to develop cancer
- Physical activity is a great way to combat decreasing bone density due to aging
The recommendations by the CDC for those ages 6 to 17 years old are as follows:
“60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day”
This can include sports, weightlifting, or other aerobic activity. That said, let’s take a look at some other studies and findings:
- Only 24% of those aged 6 to 17 are involved in physical activity for 60 minutes daily.
- Only 26% of high school students are active for one hour daily.
- 25.9% of students attend physical education daily.
Even when looking at the increase in gym and fitness culture, physical activity in schools has still decreased since the late 80s. Not surprisingly, there’s a corresponding increase in obesity rates in both children and adults.
How Does PE Affect Academic Performance?
Contrary to the infamous “jocks are not smart” notion set by pop culture, studies actually suggest otherwise. In fact, a 2017 study found that not only do active students have better mental coping tools for stressful situations in daily life, but they perform better in academic classes like mathematics.
They even theorize that kids who are engaged in team sports are better at solving problems in non-sporting team environments.
Other than the regular benefits of exercise – such as better sleep, better mood, and better health – various studies support the idea that PE has a positive influence on academic performance.
A meta-analysis in 2010 found that 11 out of 14 studies saw a positive correlation between more PE and better academic performance. The biggest factors that were “boosted” were concentration and pure achievements.
Conclusion – PE in Schools
It’s crystal clear that active children perform better in school than inactive children. While forcing children to do sports they don’t love is wrong, it’s the responsibility of schools and teachers to create environments for all kids to excel and grow.
The biggest problem, as always, is finances and funding. The average school simply doesn’t have enough money to increase the quality of physical education, and as mentioned before, the need for PE is being challenged.
The solution is simple yet massively difficult to do.
More money, more time, and more resources need to be invested into the development of children on an individual scale. After all, every single kid has the right to health and physical development.