Article written

  • on 12.04.2010
  • at 07:56 PM
  • by Jessy Troy

Decrease in Physical Education Participation in High Schools


physical education high schoolA student’s high school years are some of the most formative, especially when it comes to establishing lifelong physical exercise and health habits. Regular physical exercise will help adolescent students build and maintain healthy joints, muscles and bones.

Exercise can also help them control their weight, build lean muscle and reduce excess fat. Regular exercise can also contribute to the prevention of high blood pressure, and it can help reduce blood pressure in students who suffer from hypertension. Physical education classes don’t just establish a regular physical exercise routine; they also help students develop healthy social skills and the knowledge and attitudes they need to continue a lifelong physical activity routine.

New Goals

The negative effects that come with not exercising are varied and abundant. So it might come as a bit of a surprise to know that, as of 2009, only a third of all high school students in the United States actually meet the recommended levels of physical activity. For this reason, official national health objectives for 2010, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, include (a) to increase the proportion of adolescents who participate in daily PE classes to 50% or more and (b) to increase the proportion of adolescents who spend “at least half of school PE class time being physically active”.

Some Statistics

According to the CDC, in1999 almost half of all American youths aged 12 – 21 are not engaged in regular physical activity and 14 percent of high school aged students reported having no recent physical activity. From 1991 to 1995, enrollment in PE classes went down from 42 percent to 25 percent.

There has been little increase in physical activity among high school students since then. A recent survey from the nationally representative Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) that gathered data from 1991 to 2007 found that enrollment in high school PE classes among white female and male students as well as Hispanic students in grades 9 – 12 did not increase or decrease significantly. And among black students, enrollment actually declined considerably. And indeed, across the board, minority students are less likely to be involved in sports and physical activities and more likely to engage in what researchers refer to as “sedentary behavior”. Also, girls are generally less physically active than boys. As the age or grade level of students increases, their level of physical activity tends to decrease.

What Can Be Done?

Schools and parents can help by promoting daily physical activities with their children. Encouraging them to participate in an after school activity or sports program is a good idea. Schools should also aim to create a physical education curriculum that is enjoyable and help develop team work and confidence.

It’s also recommended that teachers and school staff members be involved in physical activities as well, as they are the primary role models for students to emulate. Having healthy staff is just one more thing that goes towards promoting a healthy school environment. Health care providers and doctors should also be actively involved in talking to their young patients about the importance of physical activity in their lives. And again, support from families, friends and community members goes a long way towards increasing the effectiveness of school sports and physical education programs.

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