As the semester drags to a close, students taking Personal Fitness crawl towards the finish line in relief. In their efforts, they may ask, “Why am I taking this class?” The answer: the school requires students to complete this course. But should graduation requirements force upon students a class that allows our unfit society to collapse in wheezes? The debate has raged on for years, but as the government cuts public schools’ funding, I actually favor requiring the class.
When students cross from sunny, merry middle school into flames and despair, they receive a list of required courses for graduation. Among those necessities sits Personal Fitness and Health. Now, hordes of students treat this requirement as a death sentence, and yet it actually remains one of my favorite classes taken in high school.
Because of the prevalent nature throughout PE/Health debate, researchers underwent numerous studies to observe if the class proves worthy of precious funding —not to mention time. In many areas, it does. Research by the Physical Activity Council showed adults who took PE demonstrated a less sedentary lifestyle than those who did not take the class, meaning that they showed a willingness to get off their couches and spend less time on their electronics.
These studies also show that PE and Health in high school encourages participation in activities outside school, such as team sports and outdoor activities. Raising a generation to enjoy physical education leads to more activity long term within the realm of organized sports. The knowledge PE gives of the importance regarding even some movement motivates students to experiment ways to remain healthy.
Some may wonder why that matters. After all, if PE does not necessarily benefit everyone, then surely other outdoor activities do not help as well. Yet, researchers over the years have conducted multiple studies that prove movement benefits. Brain stimulation improves, in turn promoting increased concentration and learning. Teens desperately need this function, as minds turn to mush around computer screens. Even a twelve minute exercise session, according to Phit America studies, can lead to improved attention and reading comprehension in adolescents. So yes, walking outside while listening to approximately four One Direction songs can help reading skills. “Nerdy” kids gain the satisfaction of potentially higher academics: the more movement a student engages in, the higher their SAT scores and GPA.
I hear stories about how taking the class did not change lazy habits at all. While these particular students were possibly destined for laziness anyway, students must remember that engrained habits remain long term. One class will not completely eliminate them; it will only lay a groundwork for the laziness’ eradication.
Nothing can prove a perfect solution in promoting health, but PE provides the best one thus far. While we fight a sedentary and obesity crisis, 48 percent of schools currently hold no PE class or a reduction in the amount of PE classes required for students to take. While this correlation does not prove causation, this positive correlation warrants a deeper look.
There remains no doubt that the United States faces a health problem. Maybe PE will not solve that problem, but implementing a program with faults holds better than allowing the problem to continue. Schools should provide the option for potential future physicality, even if the present student proves less than zealous about the topic. Requiring students to practice a healthy lifestyle, even if only for a semester, will always be worth it in the long run.