Is Gym Class Disappearing?

Longer gym periods, recess, and adequate instruction are key factors in improving the ‘Shape of the Nation.’
Physical education has made some improvements in recent years, but not enough. (Photo: Vicky Kasala)
Nov 21, 2012
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

Physical education is not exactly a high priority in many U.S. schools.

Only six states require physical education for K-12 students and just two states mandate the appropriate amount of physical education instruction for middle school kids.

Recess time is also taking a hit. Only nine states require recess in public schools. According to Rhonda Clements, president for the American Association of the Child's Right to Play, "an estimated 40 percent of U.S. school districts either have eliminated recess or are considering eliminating it."

More: Back to Recess in Chicago

Budget cuts are often responsible for a decline in physical education courses and recess time is typically dropped so more time can be spent on the curriculum.

With childhood obesity rates on the rise—they've nearly tripled in three decades—something's got to give.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education's Shape of the Nation report offers several suggestions for school districts on how to improve the quality of students' physical education. They recommend:

  • A comprehensive school physical activity program: This includes health education, elementary school recess, after-school physical activity clubs and intramurals, high school interscholastic athletics, walk/bike to school programs, and staff wellness programs.
  • Recess in schools: Play is an essential element of children’s physical and social development. Children learn how to make decisions, cooperate, compete constructively, assume leader/follower roles, and resolve conflicts by
    interacting in play.
  • Adequate time for phys. ed.: Adequate time (i.e., 150 minutes per week for elementary school students; 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students) is provided for physical education at every grade, K-12.
  • No substitutions: Other courses and activities that include physical activity should not be substituted for instructional physical education.

Do you think recess and physical education should be more of a priority in schools? Share your thoughts in comments.

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