Physical Education is mandated in most schools across the nation. However, is it really benefiting the students?
by Lakshana Lakshmanarajan
Physical activity is defined as any form of movement done during free time. This movement can increase your quality of life and reduce the risk of developing numerous diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc. (CDC April 2020). Physical activity, in general, can also improve mental health, as it improves the sleep cycle, allowing for a much higher energy level throughout the day.
Physical activity, or any form of exercise, is deemed as an extremely important part of our day, which is why in most schools in the US, Physical Education (PE) is a required class. However, due to the lack of choice, many students are forced to miss school to avoid it, negatively impacting their education; this mandate could be creating an opposite effect of its original purpose.
Here’s where the trilemma is presented, is physical activity being a required subject in school necessary to improve physical and mental health, or does it create unnecessary pressure on students, resulting in a detrimental effect on other aspects of their education?
Physical Education Needs to be Mandated.
There are numerous benefits to having physical activity everyday, especially for younger children. Participation in physical activity promotes sleep, an important aspect of healthy growth. It can also improve bone, muscle, and joint strength, decreasing the risks of developing osteoporosis in the future. Students are guaranteed to be healthier as long as PE is required in schools as it allows every student to participate in at least the 30 minutes of necessary physical activity.
PE additionally allows for an increase in recovery speed, preventing hospitalizations due to more severe, long-lasting injuries. Furthermore, physical activity is not only helpful physically but mentally as well. As mental health in younger generations is becoming a growing issue, PE could help alleviate the stress students may have from or outside of school; physical activity has been shown to improve the mood of people, increasing the levels of chemicals in the brain that account for happiness. It also allows students to have an opportunity for social engagement which is crucial for mental health as well.
A child’s health should be taken seriously as it is one of the largest factors affecting their future health. Making PE a required period in schools will ensure that students get the required physical activity they need, and reduce the number of people with health issues in the future. It ensures better health regardless of how often individual students may exercise.
Physical Education Isn’t Beneficial.
Mandating PE in schools also has its downsides. The fact that it doesn’t allow students to have any choice in the physical activity they participate in is harmful on its own as creativity is an important part of stimulating growth. Additionally, although PE has been shown to have a positive effect on grades, this is not the case for every student: it may cause certain students to exhaust themselves resulting in a negative impact on the amount and quality of effort they put into their academics. Furthermore, many students despise PE due to the different ranges of physical capabilities that each student possesses..
PE is also less beneficial to students in low-income families, as their family may not be able to provide themselves with the same basic necessities other families have access to. This results in difficulties in participating in physical activities. Enforcing the same physical requirements on every student can worsen physical health, and even creates a detrimental effect on health if students are forced to push themselves too far.
Physical Education is Unnecessary.
Although the intent of making PE a required class in most schools across the nation was positive, there are many factors that when considered, make it seem unnecessary. The suggested amount of physical activity for a student is 30 minutes to an hour, which is easily achieved by most students without PE. Many students walk to and from school and within their school, counting as physical activity. School sports also provide physical activity, as well as playing with peers outside of school. Even walking around the house, or between class periods counts as physical activity, so PE may be just pushing most students’ amount of exercise, instead of ensuring the required minimum to prevent health issues.
PE may be necessary only to a small number of students that are somehow getting no physical activity throughout the day. Instead of enforcing this on all students, which can be a waste of time and take away from other activities as it provides no benefit, it makes sense for it to be cut off.
So what do you think? Should Physical Education continue to be mandated?