Parents complain about how their children are unfit and health professionals strongly urge strongly children and teens to be more active, yet few actions are taken to encourage youth fitness. People just can’t laugh the pounds off anymore! P.E. should be kept mandatory in schools across America to encourage healthy lifestyles for children and adolescents; this means childhood obesity can be prevented, students can develop important social skills, and their futures can be benefited. Childhood obesity is a major problem in the United States.
Ever since physical education was made optional in many schools, the amount of obesity has increased. However, if P.E. was mandated, students would be able to live healthy and active lifestyles. Also, instead of children being lonely and socially awkward, P.E. teaches them to associate with others and allows them to make friends with peers that they have not talked to before. P.E. is a great time for kids to release the energy that many teachers always complain about being a nuisance in class! Not only that, but in the future, the students would have less health problems since they have been active and fit in the past.
Many benefits come with students receiving the beneficial physical activity time that they need.
To begin with, physical education should be kept mandatory across America to prevent childhood obesity. The obesity crisis has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past thirty years (Centers for Disease Control). P.E. is what is needed to help reduce the obesity epidemic in America.
Even the sports drinks endorsed by famous athletes are packed with sugars. What is the point of taking away a can of soda if P.E. is taken away as well? Simply swapping a Coke for a Gatorade but still being inactive will not help children maintain a healthy weight.
Physical education encourages healthy lifestyle habits and lowers the risk of children becoming obese and developing other serious weight related diseases. Youth that don’t regularly exercise grow unhealthily overweight and have risk factors for cardiovascular disease and prediabetes. “Obese adolescents also have a greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem” (www.cdc.gov). Overweight children are more likely to become obese adults, and that leads to more serious health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Childhood obesity has intermediate and long term effects that can be easily avoided if we instilled healthy life habits, like exercising now! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least one hour of physical activity daily for children and adolescents. P.E. classes provide this beneficial period dedicated to exercise. “The number of kids affected by obesity has tripled since 1980, and this can be traced in large part to lack of exercise and a healthy diet” (Virginia Foxx).
If a child spends at least five hours at school most of the week, isn’t P.E. the perfect time for students to get time for physical activity? However, when P.E. is given as an optional course or elective and not a required class, most students choose not to do it to avoid physical activity. Very few people know that “only six states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Illinois and Iowa – adhere to standards from the National Association of Sports and Physical Education that schoolchildren participate in 150 minutes a week of physical education. And just three states- Delaware, Virginia and Nebraska – have 20 minutes of mandatory elementary- school recess a day” (TIME.com).
This is a major issue, considering some schools’ idea of “healthy” for their students is an optional salad bar in the cafeteria. One apple or a celery stick on a child’s lunch tray is not solving child obesity. This problem can be solved by keeping P.E. mandatory to encourage fitness and good health. Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behavior.
In addition, physical education can improve students’ social skills. Sports and other physical activities play a big role in the development of a student’s self-esteem and social skills. When students play team sports they are developing sportsmanship, teamwork, communication, and social skills. “According to research at the University of Michigan, middle school children who scored highest in leadership skills had more than or equal to 20 minutes of physical activity everyday” (Nauert). “Children who develop leadership and empathy toward others are more likely to care about their own health, perhaps adopting life- long healthy behaviors…,” said Elizabeth Jackson, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Health System” (Psych Central).
The development of leadership skills from P.E. can be beneficial in the long run for students. A student’s self-esteem can improve because of the progress they make when they play sports. “A study was done by Canadian scientists in 2000 on 12 year old children. Their results showed that boys and girls who were more physically active had higher levels of self-esteem”(Tremblay, Inman, and Willms). Many other studies have been done on the relationship between physical activity and self-esteem.
Their results show that physical activity does benefit self-esteem. In physical education, students can also develop skills that will help them in other school subjects. Harold W. Kohl III, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health reported, “Research shows that physical activity helps children think faster, improve their cognitive performance, and helps them reach their academic potential.” Here you can see how helpful physical activity can be to students.
Contrary to the common belief that physical activity makes children hyperactive, “children who are more active have greater attention spans and better academic performance,” says Professor Harold Kohl III (USA Today). Just one hour of physical activity a day can help students in so many ways, inside and outside the school environment. However, the benefits of P.E. don’t just spread to the students’ daily lives. In physical education, students develop skills and habits that will help them in the future.
Furthermore, having P.E. in schools today will help students in adulthood. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle to students now will help them stay healthy and active in the future. Currently, less than five percent of adults participate in the recommended amount of thirty minutes of physical activity each day (Jaslow). This is horrible considering the fact that obesity is rapidly taking over America.
However, this number can be increased by educating today’s students about the importance and benefits of healthy living. We can teach children and adolescents about this through physical education where they get to set good habits from an early age. According to the Bright Hub Education website, people who exercise regularly during childhood and adolescence are more likely to exercise during adulthood. A good amount of physical activity now will also benefit the students’ future health.
Healthy exercise helps prevent obesity and other serious illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis (BrightHubEducation.com). This shows that our children can be prepared for the future in more ways than one with physical education. We are constantly looking for solutions for adult obesity across America, so today’s youth should be taught about the necessity of fitness before they move into adulthood and it’s too late.
In conclusion, to ensure a bright and healthy future for the students of America, we must start in our schools. This does not necessarily mean students sitting in desks behind books all day. Keeping physical education a mandatory course in schools will make sure that our students are getting the imperative physical activity that they need to grow healthily and maintain a good well-being. It is time for us all to stop complaining about the physical inactivity or poor health of today’s youth.
Instead of blaming it on them, perhaps we should take it into our own hands to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle for all children and adolescents. By making P.E. mandatory, we will be benefiting and improving our students’ health, attitude, and adulthood. By allowing students to opt out of physical education, we are letting them opt out of a healthy body, mind, and future.