This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Think PE in schools isn’t important? Think again! Our kids learn so many important life skills in gym class that they will use throughout their entire lives. Yet so many schools have cut PE programs back to virtually nothing. My son goes weeks without gym class in his middle school. They alternate health and gym, so when he has health class, he doesn’t have PE. When it’s not a health rotation, he still only has PE a few times a week. It makes me sad because he really loves PE class and actually excels at it.

His school isn’t alone in cutting back PE classes. Did you know that only 8% of middle schools have daily PE classes? Once he hits high school, that number drops to 2%! I’m also not alone in feeling that it should be more of a priority. 95% of parents with kids under age 18 believe PE should be part of the school curriculum for all students from Kindergarten through senior year. 

Why are so many schools lacking in a solid PE program? For some, it comes down to economics. Schools in certain parts of the country just don’t have the resources to fund PE. For others, like my son’s school, it comes down to time. Many schools are teaching to a standardized test, so all the focus goes into the courses that will appear on that test. It doesn’t leave much time for all the other classes they need to fit into a week.

Aside from giving our kids a good chunk of their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day, PE class has so many more benefits to our kids that go way beyond the four walls of a gym. Take a look at a few of the most important life skills our kids learn in gym class, then we’ll talk about what we, as parents, can do to save PE in schools.

Life Skills Learned in Gym Class

  • Teamwork: The most obvious benefit of gym class, our kids learn how to work together as a team to accomplish a goal.
  • Self-discipline: When you’re working towards a physical goal, it’s pretty much all on you. PE teachers can guide our kids and give them tips for reaching those goals, but ultimately, it’s up to our kids to follow through.
  • Leadership: A great PE teacher will give every child the chance to be a team captain or leader. Not only does this help boost their self-esteem, but also gives them the opportunity to flex their leadership muscles to lead their teams to victory.
  • Communication skills: The interpersonal skills learned in gym class go beyond verbal communication. Just watch any sporting event and you’ll see plenty of non-verbal cues that tell each member of the team what to expect. Kids learn from body language of both their own teammates and their opposition, a skill that will greatly benefit them in the workforce when they grow up.
  • Positive methods for emotional release: PE teaches our kids how to release their anger, frustrations, sadness and other emotions by redirecting it into physical activity rather than negative releases like drugs and alcohol.
  • How to lose gracefully: We can’t win everything all the time, and knowing how to be gracious when you lose is vital to our children’s futures. A loss not only teaches our kids how to act towards the winners but also how to reevaluate their strategy and learn from their mistakes.

 

Protect PE in Schools: Join the PE Action Team

Even without all the valuable life lessons that kids learn in PE, it’s still an incredibly beneficial class. Kids need physical activity not just for healthy bodies, but also for healthy minds. Check out this fabulous infographic from Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with more benefits of PE.

As parents, we need to be more vocal about making sure our children’s schools understand the value of PE. One way to do that is to write to your congressman, school board, and other leaders and ask them to make daily PE a core component in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). the federal education law that requires all states to develop a plan to make sure every student receives a fair high-quality education.  As of now, while ESSA does include PE and health as part of that “well-rounded” curriculum, that law doesn’t mandate inclusion of PE classes. Basically, while PE classes COULD get access to significant federal funding, it has to actually be included in the plan to receive the money. Another way is to join the PE Action Team. Sign the petition to make PE a priority, then check out the toolkit for more resources to help you make your voice heard.

Want to learn more about how you can work to increase PE in your community? Visit http://physicaleducation.voicesforhealthykids.org/