Sedentary lives make up a big part of the number one killer worldwide. Unhealthy junk food can now be delivered to your house without the need to even get off the couch. People take cars everywhere, even to cover a distance that would take five minutes to walk. People avoid physical exercise at all costs, which has ultimately led our generation into a disaster. It is far overdue that a prevention effort must be made to save our country. Physical education must be made mandatory throughout all years of high school to save the most unhealthy generation ever known. Over the last several years, the percentage of children and adolescents that are obese has greatly increased.
The Government Accountability Office reported that within a thirty-year span, the percent of adolescents that are obese increased more than four times what it was, going from from 5% in 1980 to 21% percent in 2010. At the same time, students have been receiving less time for physical education (P.E.) classes (qtd. in Skolnikoff and Engvall 1). That is over one-fifth of this age group being obese, and that is not including people in the overweight category. While lack of exercise leads to sedentary lifestyles, our nation has also obtained an obsession for fast food. The ability to pick something up for supper on the way home seems appears to be the best option.
When these calories do not get burned off, it can quickly lead to obesity. Beck and Diehr both acknowledge that “the current generation is the first not anticipated to outlive its parents, and one reason is the rising levels of obesity among younger generations” (201). Technology has constantly been advancing and is the main cause for increased life spans. Now, a lack of exercise is likely to change that. Not everyone agrees that physical education should be a required class all throughout high school. One common belief is that P.E. classes are a waste of valuable school time. With a world revolving around science and technology, people think that those classes should take priority over physical education classes. Langford and Carter explain how teachers often understand that physical education is helpful to the student, but does not compare to the importance of other classes (4).
This ties into another similar point of view where physical education classes should be eliminated to allow students to focus on their grades in other primary classes, and that they can exercise at home. The thought behind this is that without a gym class during school, it offers more time to learn during the school day. It is not uncommon to see parents take their children out of physical education classes with the intent for them to achieve a better grade point average (Skolnikoff and Engvall 3). Often these people will acknowledge that P.E. is important, but not as important as the other core classes. A final argument is that P.E. classes are only short-term and pointless in the long run.
This point of view is understandable because only 2% of adults that are older than thirty-five will ever take part in competitive sports (Schachter 2). It is argued that learning team sports will not be important when only one in fifty kids will compete in a competitive sport when they are older. It is thought that the activities done in class will not benefit students after they graduate if they do not ever play the sport in a competitive matter. Since physical education classes in school have often taught sports orientated around teamwork, it could be pointless. Even if there are a couple negative aspects to physical education, there are many more reasons to why it should be mandatory.
The first reason is simply that it gives students some much needed daily exercise. It is very important to have an opportunity for this during school because students at a high school level will often spend their night working on homework and studying in preparation for the next day. This leaves them with very little time to get any physical activity, let alone the full hour a day that is declared the minimum for adolescents by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (qtd. in CDC 2). P.E. classes in school are usually close to sixty minutes long, making up most of the suggested time. It would be difficult to find time for that at home. In addition to that, physical education studies found six main variables that contribute to a student’s physical education experience, including gender, teachers, curriculum, success/failure, parents, and friends (qtd. in Portman 2).
Two-thirds of these factors are commonly dealt with every day at school, making it the perfect place for physical activity to be encouraged. The other main factor that made it onto the list is the parents of each student, and oftentimes, the parents will not encourage physical exercise at home, nor will the student always listen to them if they do. Equally important, having mandatory physical education at school will help to prevent obesity in this new generation. The decrease in exercise among adolescents has made obesity a much more relevant issue than it once was. Statistics show that over a span of seven years, new graduates were found to have the highest raise in obesity population, going from 7.1% to 12.1% (Carter and Langford 2).
This means that within only seven years, the amount of graduates that are obese has increased by 5%. With physical education becoming less popular, it is evident that this is not a coincidence. It was easy to tell which students had stopped receiving physical education by the time that they graduate, creating an issue of obesity that could be prevented. Looking at those statistics, an online article infers that physical education is a more effective healthcare system. It prevents the issues from happening to begin with rather than fixing them, which can even lead to a decrease in traditional healthcare costs (PHIT WORLD 2). Exercise is often thought to be a cure for obesity, but really it should be a preventative. Once someone is obese, it gets harder to exercise and return their body to a healthy state. Even if an obese adolescent successfully returns to a healthy weight, it is much easier to regain weight than it is to obtain it for the first time. Maintaining a healthy body is one of the most important goals that someone can have.
A few of the many health related benefits of taking good care of your body include reduced risks of heart disease, cancer, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and obesity. (CDC 2) However, an unhealthy lifestyle leads to an increased risk of developing any of those symptoms. Beck and Diehr concluded that the number one cause of death each year is cardiovascular disease, and over 11.9% of these deaths are the result of a sedentary lifestyle (201). Cardiovascular disease should not be as much of an issue as it is. There are many other benefits of physical exercise that are often overlooked. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education confirms that exercise not only increases physical fitness, but also develops skills such as self-discipline, judgment, support of other subject areas, experience in setting goals, strengthened peer relationships, stress reduction, improved self-confidence, and increased self-esteem (qtd. in Kelso 4-5).
Stress reduction is an important benefit at a high school level that is often ignored. Students are often stressed about schoolwork and do not feel like they ever have time to relax. The other benefits are all likely to play a key part in the students future. During a State Board of Education meeting in Massachusetts, it was pointed out that “we talk to kids all the time about not putting drugs in their bodies... but we’re going to tell them we don’t care about how they take care of their bodies?” (qtd. in Nifong 1). This quote shows that if people believe both that students should not use drugs and that they should not be required to take physical education, they are strongly contradicting themselves. It could also be relating the lack of exercise to a bad drug. Just like these drugs that have been made illegal, it can damage the overall health of a body. There is one last major benefit that some may consider to be the most important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrates in numerous studies that students who receive better grades and have better classroom behaviors, such as paying attention and doing work with integrity, tend to be the ones getting more physical education.
If a schools purpose is to improve academic performance, including a mandatory physical education class should be a priority. Schools cannot just advise these students to exercise at home, as they have very little free time, and when they do, it is very unlikely they will spend it exercising. Some teachers have even started to incorporate short yoga breaks not only to compensate for their lack of gym classes but also because it is understood that many students can not focus well for long periods of time (Schachter 4). If a student sits down listening to various lectures the whole day without ever moving around, they are bound to lose attention and have a lack of motivation. With physical activity being in a student’s day, it can actually improve their grades in other classes. The thought that physical education classes are not important compared to other classes is really surprising. Nifong mentions that “the decisions administrators make will deliver a powerful statement about the direction of American education - and what society expects schools to teach children” .
If it is decided that physical education should not be prioritized over science and technology classes, it ultimately says that further advancements in technology is more important than people's lives. Our country is already becoming way too obsessed with technology, and adding in more tech classes to replace physical education would just be making it worse. In addition to this, there is the more understandable point of view, where these classes should not be mandatory so that students can focus on excelling in other subjects and improve their grades. Langford and Carter agree that “the goal of educational excellence is certainly understandable, however, if tomorrow’s scholars die prematurely from hypokinetic disease their greatest contributions to society will never materialize” . This quote is saying that a student could spend their whole life studying, but never get to create their ideas because a possible lack of exercise could cause their early death. As earlier mentioned, physical education does actually help most students academic performance.
Even if it is possible that a few adolescents could benefit from not taking a physical education class, it seems clear that the benefits of physical education (reduced risk of developing cancers and diabetes, improved self-esteem and confidence, obesity prevention, etc.) outweigh the few cons of it. The final idea that physical education classes are short-term and do not offer enough variety used to be a very valid argument. Recently, however, curriculums have been changed to teach activities that promote long-term activity. Many schools are beginning to offer more activities that could end up being in a students future, such as skating (Schachter 1). Since most students will not play competitive sports as an adult, activities such as skating and weightlifting have been implemented into P.E. classes. These activities do not need to be competitive or team based. Once students have learned these skills, they can come back to them later in their life since they have an understanding of them. This realistic problem of how physical education is taught has been fixed, and should no longer be a concern.
There is no reason that physical education should be taken any less serious than any other core classes. As earlier mentioned, students have been receiving less physical education, and obesity rates among adolescents have been skyrocketing. The benefits that would result from making P.E. mandatory largely outweigh any possible ideas that go against the position. Schools cannot expect students to receive an acceptable amount of exercise outside of school, nor can anyone assume that their parents will encourage it in any way. As long as fast food restaurants remain popular, technology continues to advance, and adolescents spend their already limited amount of free time playing video games, there is no sign of this deadly problem coming to an end. The longer that this problem is ignored, the worse it becomes.
With physical education classes now offering activities to support lifelong fitness, it is time take advantage of this starting point. Schools now need to start encouraging physical education classes as much as they can, and their curriculums need to become much more strict. An academic journal describes that the effort that is put into this will show not only the intended future for these students but also the future of America (Nifong 1). Up until recently, human life expectancy has done nothing but rise, but now that has changed. Students alone can not save our nation, neither can just their elders. A true health care system needs to be created. It is time that students, parents, and teachers all work together as a team to stabilize the endangered species that is the new generation of humans.
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