The benefits of a physical education program are, sadly, often overlooked. Regular physical activity is associated with a healthier, longer life, lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity for kids of all ages. School based programs provide a structured setting in which to integrate physical activities and instruction in good nutrition into students’ daily lives and hopefully develop a lifetime of healthy living.
According to author Charlotte Kelso in her recent article, ‘High-quality health and physical education programs help students succeed in life,’ “At the moment, it looks like we’re losing the fight against inactivity and obesity in our young people. We are raising the most sedentary and unhealthy generation in American history: Its members may have the dubious distinction of being the first generation not to outlive their parents.”
Physical education programs do more than prevent future health issues. Playing a team sport gives children the opportunity to develop critical life skills, such as problem solving, strategy and working together to achieve a goal.
Children also learn good sportsmanship and that there is more to sports than simply winning. The training and discipline required to participate in a sport helps build self-confidence.
In his article for Psychology Today, entitled ‘Do Sports and Other Physical Activities Build Self-Esteem?’ Dr. Richard Bailey explains, “A number of studies offer support to the claim that sports and other physical activities can contribute to the development of self-esteem. For example,Canadian scientists(link is external) found that sixth grade students boys and girls who were more physically active had considerably higher levels of self-esteem. This finding was corroborated by another Canadian team(link is external), who also highlighted the potentially harmful role that obesity plays in the equation. A study in Switzerland(link is external) found that adolescents who participated in sports clubs had greater well-being, including being better socially adjusted, feeling less anxious, and generally being happier about their lives. Similar findings were reported in a study of Latino students(link is external), where participation in school sport was found to be significantly associated with self-esteem.”
Just as importantly, children learn that physical activity is fun! A broad range of games and activities, along with sports, helps children to learn that exercise is not merely running around a track but is actually something they can enjoy.
Beyond these benefits several large studies have found improvements in students’ academic performance and cognitive ability with increased time spent in physical education. The increased blood flow during exercise transports oxygen to all parts of the body, including the brain, which can help improve memory and reasoning skills. Children who make healthy eating choices concentrate better in school and are less disruptive.
In fact, teenage girls may benefit the most from participation in sports. Girls who participate in team sports do better academically, have fewer disciplinary issues and lower drop-out rates than sedentary girls, according to “Healthy You Magazine” online. Regular physical activity through competitive sports can also help boost a girl’s self-image.
So next time your child wants to opt out of P.E. to spend more time studying for another class or to participate in another activity, remind her that it’s not just about sports… but about so much more!
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