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Many people regard physical education classes as less important than other facets of a child’s schooling, such as math, English, or science. With unhealthy lifestyles on the rise in countries such as the United States, however, many health experts agree that the role of physical fitness in schools is in fact a significant one. By emphasizing physical fitness in schools, educators not only improve students’ current health, but can also help them to establish the foundations of a lifelong commitment to fitness. Combined with instruction in topics such as nutrition, physical fitness in schools can increase students’ awareness of the role they play in maintaining their own health.
Physical fitness in schools can take a number of different forms. Students in many schools are required to participate in a physical education class on a regular basis. This class often involves playing a range of sports and physical games, such as basketball, kickball, and softball. Other common forms of physical fitness in schools are involvement in extracurricular sports teams and participation in informal physical games like flag football during recess periods.
Unfortunately, many students do not realize the potential benefits of physical fitness in schools. Some schools lack the funding needed to provide regular physical education classes. Additionally, physical education classes are commonly offered on an optional basis once students reach the high school level. Consequently, many high school students opt not to enroll in these classes, often because they believe them to be less important than other subjects.
With inactive lifestyles on the rise in countries like the US, however, health experts agree that the role of physical fitness in schools should be a highly visible one. Participation in ongoing physical education and school-based physical activities has many immediate benefits. First of all, it can discourage or reverse obesity among students. It can also promote a positive body image and foster students’ ability to work in teams. Additionally, it may encourage at-risk students to stay in school.
Along with these immediate benefits, the promotion of physical fitness in schools can also help students establish a lifelong commitment to health. Students who find they enjoy playing a sport during gym class may be more likely to join an extracurricular team, and to continue playing on sports teams even after their schooling has ended. Those with an established commitment to physical fitness may also be less likely to develop destructive habits, such as tobacco and drug use. Combined with instruction in subjects like nutrition, school-based physical education can increase students’ understanding of the responsibility they hold in maintaining their own health.