Health & Fitness

Physical education teaches skills students can use for a lifetime

Many people view physical education classes as just a place for students to blow off steam or "wiggle their crazies out."

But having such a narrow view overlooks the much broader benefits of a high-quality PE program.

For one, there is plenty of evidence to show that children who participate in physical education are better learners in the classroom. And PE classes provide the kind of physical activity that has long-term benefits: weight control, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stronger bones and muscles, and improved self- esteem and self-image.

It's recommended that children between the ages of 5 and 12 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Examples could be swimming laps, playing organized sports, riding a bicycle, shooting hoops in the driveway or playing catch.

Mowing grass, raking leaves, gardening and even housework also qualify as physical activity, which is just about anything that elevates the heart and breathing rate.

Finding something to do that is considered physically active is not hard. Finding the motivation and the confidence to participate can be daunting for some.

PE classes try to give kids the skills and experience they'll need to be comfortable with physical activities their entire lives. Emphasis is put on making sure kids have the equipment they need to participate, so that little time is spent waiting on the sidelines.

Most PE teachers also try to offer a wide variety of activities so that students will have a better chance of finding something they enjoy. Not enjoying exercise is cited as one of the top reasons adults don't participate in physical activity.

In the Wichita school district, physical educators teach developmentally appropriate benchmarks that are based on national standards. Not only do these standards address physical skills, but they also measure learning as well as social development.

Ideally, students who complete a high-quality physical education class will use the skills and concepts they've learned throughout their lives to become competent and healthy movers and shakers.