Why Are We Getting Rid of Gym Class?

Students all over the country are heading back to school this month. For many, this means saying goodbye to the activities and exercise opportunities of summer. Instead, students will take on more sedentary lifestyles, broken up by recess and Physical Education (P.E.) class. At least, that used to be the case. Now, some schools are looking in to cutting, or have already cut P.E. classes and recess from the curriculum.

P.E. classes may be the only exercise some students do in a day. Since during the school year, most kids will spend the majority of their time in the classroom, it makes sense to include the federally recommended 60 minutes of exercise in the school day. By removing those classes, schools could be unwittingly contributing to a student’s decline in health. Furthermore, with the rise of childhood obesity, it makes sense to factor a little physical activity into each studentís day. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can make a significant difference to overall health.

Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine recommended that elementary school students get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day at school and middle and high school students get at least 45 minutes of exercise a day. It was also stated that not all of the exercise needs to take place during a P.E. class. Sports and other physical activities that take place before and after school contribute to a student’s time spent exercising per day. The Institute also called on schools to encourage students to walk/bike/skateboard to school instead of being driven when weather and distance allowed for it.

Many believe that the increase in standardized testing has been the downfall of P.E. As schools are asked to perform more and more tests, physical activity time, including gym class and recess, has been cut to accommodate the extra time needed for tests. Since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Law in 2001, 44 percent of school administrators said they have made cuts to their students’ physical education, including cutting “significant time” from gym classes and recess. This is done primarily to devote more time to focus on reading and mathematics, two commonly tested subjects. While there is nothing inherently wrong with studying math and reading, doing so at the expense of physical health is a trend that needs to be reexamined. Research has even shown that students who exercise during the day do better academically.

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