Kids need physical education – even when they can’t get it in school – UofSC News & Events


Children who are more physically active tend to get better grades and develop the self-confidence that can allow them to be successful later in life. Physical education teacher Collin Webster writes for The Conversation that the arrival of summer vacation could allay parents’ concerns about their children’s sedentary lifestyle. However, researchers believe that a lack of structured summer activities can lead children to make unhealthy choices.

When I noticed my 12-year-old son was spending about seven hours a day doing his schoolwork online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I immediately became concerned. As a researcher who focuses on how to get kids to be more physically active, I knew my son and his classmates were spending too much time sedentary.

Physical activity is good for the physical and mental health of everyone, including children of all ages and abilities.

Children who are more physically active tend to get better grades and develop the self-confidence that can allow them to be successful later in life.

For people with disabilities, physical activity can help them gain independence.

A summer slide in physical activity

The arrival of summer vacation could allay parents’ concerns about their children’s sedentary lifestyle. I remember summer vacation as a welcome break from being seated at school and stuck inside. However, the reverse may be true for many children today.

In the United States, a study of 18,170 young children found that the proportion of obese children rose from 8.9% to 11.5% between kindergarten and grade two. The increase generally occurred during the summer, and not when the children were in school.

Researchers believe that a lack of structured summer activities can lead children to make unhealthy choices. This idea is reinforced by a review of 37 studies which found that children were less active on weekends than on school days, and research showing that children spend more time using screens in the summer than during the summer. ‘school year.

One hour a day – an elusive goal

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that school-aged children and teens spend at least an hour a day running, biking, or other physical activity. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 4 children aged 6 to 17 met this recommendation before the pandemic.

Even children who participate in organized sports may not get the prescribed 60 minutes of activity per day. One study found that kids in flag football leagues only spent 20 minutes exercising during team training. This result is fairly consistent in other sports, such as soccer and basketball, where no more than half of the training time was spent exercising.

The level of physical activity plummets when children reach middle school, and it doesn’t matter whether they are on teams or not. A study in San Diego found that children aged 11 to 14 spent a total of seven minutes less physical activity, compared to children aged 7 to 10, during sports.

Meanwhile, kids and teens spend up to eight hours a day doing things like watching TV, using smartphones, and playing video games.

School physical education – the pill not to take

When it comes to promoting physical activity, researchers have called physical education “the pill not to take.” Currently, only Oregon and the District of Columbia have policies that require schools to provide nationally recommended time for physical education – 150 minutes per week for elementary classes and 225 minutes for students. college and high school. Additionally, more than half of the states have gaps that allow high school students to skip PE.

Overall, most school systems weren’t doing enough to keep kids fit before COVID-19 opened up makeshift distance learning months. The CDC awarded schools a D- grade for their efforts on this front.

In short, the vast majority of children need to spend more time being active both at school and at home. The extra time spent in physical education class increases students’ ability to acquire the skills needed to remain active into adulthood.

What children need from PE

Physical education offers children more than exercise, which is why activities like the marching band and even team sports are, in my opinion, a poor substitute.

In elementary school, physical education should primarily support the development of fundamental movement skills, such as jumping, kicking, throwing and catching, which are essential for a wide range of activities, such as most team sports, dance and gymnastics. Children who have mastered these skills are more physically active than those who have not.

Middle and high school physical education programs should focus on motivating children to stay active. Because teens are more motivated to be physically active when they feel they are in control of their learning, giving them a say in what they do is important. Since different children have different interests, the physical education program should cover not only team sports, but also activities requiring fewer participants, such as tennis and golf.

Students at all levels of education should have the opportunity to develop their physical fitness, especially their aerobic endurance, muscle strength and flexibility.

What parents can do

Dozens, if not hundreds, of online resources are devoted to keeping kids active and fit when they’re not in school. However, I have found that few are supported by research and most have not been developed by professional PE educators.

Rather than scouring the Internet for ideas, parents of elementary school students should play games with their children that incorporate fundamental movement skills. Throwing and catching a beanbag, kicking a ball with a paddle, and kicking a ball are all helpful.

Encouraging children to dance and do basic tumbling will help them improve their balance.

Parents of high school and high school students should encourage their children to try activities they might enjoy and pursue into adulthood, such as running, hiking, biking and, when facilities are available. available, racquetball. Try to encourage them by participating yourself and being a physically active role model.

Whenever possible, parents should support their children’s interests in activities by helping with transportation, purchasing equipment, and planning family outings to parks and local events like fun races.

Parents should also help their children learn to monitor and manage their personal fitness. Portable fitness trackers like Fitbits are a useful tool. Kids can use them to set daily step goals and track their progress.

Families can also regularly try new activities that make fitness fun. For example, to work on aerobic endurance, try skipping or dancing. Instead of using weights to build muscle strength, go kayaking or rock climbing, or use resistance bands at home. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are great for building flexibility.

Remember this: physical activity is a behavior and physical fitness is a condition. Neither is synonymous with physical education, but a good physical education program will help achieve both.

The conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Photo credit of banner image: Strong physical education programs encourage students to stay physically active throughout their lives. Kathryn Scott / The Denver Post via Getty Images

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Subjects: Faculty, College of Education

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