Pros of PE

Is Physical Education necessary?

Student+spends+their+PE+period+taking+a+scenic+walk.

Colette Reitenour

Student spends their PE period taking a scenic walk.

Colette Reitenour, Illustrator

While I began this article, I expected to justify my long-held position that high school PE isn’t effective enough to warrant a class period. As I’ve researched and interviewed, however, I’ve come to the unexpected conclusion that it is a valuable class. While it may not be essential to the conventional education system, keeping students active and teaching them how to care for themselves physically is overwhelmingly beneficial.

Most enrolled in PE regard it as an easy “A”, if not a waste of time. In pre-coronavirus years, this almost five hour a week class would see students providing minimum effort to complete their tasks. Many would complain that they work out on their own, so why participate in PE when they could have a free period? For those staying active with an individual sport, Independent PE (IPE) is an option, but this is not available for team sports or unorganized exercise. 

“Things have died down a bit with Covid, so I’m only practicing four hours a week now, but before lockdown I was on the ice anywhere from ten to eighteen hours a week,” competitive team ice skater Morganne Crone explained.

IPE is an exclusive class, only available to independent, nationally ranked athletes. These rules were put into place to confirm that these students are working hard and not relying on their team members for success. This precludes members of all team sports, even if they are nationally ranked and incredibly advanced, so students like Crone are rejected. Unfortunately, this is a district regulation. 

While these players are moving enough on their own, the remaining members of PE classes might not be so inclined to exercise without a designated class. 

“We want you to go and learn a new skill, physically, and we’re in a time right now where I don’t know how many students would have that intrinsic motivation to go out on their own,” Physical Education Department Chair and former yoga teacher Christy Curtis shared. “It’s important to have a structured PE period, even if I don’t get to be there physically, to guide and support students. If they didn’t have PE structured in a school day I don’t know how healthy of body and mind students would be.”

According to the CDC, higher activity can be linked not only to lower body fat and stronger bones, but also better sleep, grades and memory. Being active also releases endorphins and dopamine, resulting in a happier demeanor. 

The California Department of Education states that PE is taught to promote overall health and wellbeing. There are few opportunities for students to develop skills like hand-eye coordination, endurance, social skills and cooperation outside of school. 

Some of these benefits have been sacrificed with virtual learning, but students have also gained flexibility, settling one of the main grievances with PE: Students are exercising outside of school and not getting credit.

“With the online situation, I’ve had students go skateboarding, mountain biking, walk their dog and so many more really cool activities that you could never get credit for in regular class. In person there’s a lot more accountability, but I think it’s great letting students do what they enjoy,” Curtis mentioned. 

Though it may be an unpopular opinion, PE prepares students for healthy lives, and with virtual learning, they can be active in ways that interest them. This approach should be carried forth even as schools return to in-person learning.

“Physical education is important for a lot of reasons, I wouldn’t be doing this for 20 years if I didn’t believe in it. PE is truly a way to become educated on the human body and what it’s capable of doing. More importantly, what we try to push in schools is physical literacy. You can study math and science and literature, but rarely do we study ourselves. We’re a living breathing organism and if we don’t understand how our body works, we are setting ourselves up for failure. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how much money you make, if you don’t know how to care for your body, you’re doomed,” Curtis shared.