Everyone knows that Physical Education (PE) class is great for kids. It helps improve their physical fitness, increases their motor skill development, and encourages daily exercise. But, what about the hidden benefits? PE is much more than just exercise!
In fact, Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, says, “Exercise is like Miracle-Gro for the brain.” Including it in a daily routine has repeatedly been shown to build brain cells and to improve academics. Elevating the heart rate can lift mood, beat stress, and sharpen intellect.
Unfortunately though, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says, “physical education is in decline across all world regions.” In fact, in the United States, the average school’s budget for PE is a meager $764 per year, according to the Society for Health and Physical Educators. Why is the budget so low when the benefits are so great?
In addition to providing great exercise and developing motor skills, here are 5 hidden benefits of PE!
Inspires Self Discipline
Kids who have access to high-quality PE programs are taught life skills that can be used forever. Implementing good habits and conditioning early in life is a lot easier than “teaching an old dog new tricks.” For example, think of a middle school student participating in a teaching unit based on the fundamentals of running. The student finds that over the course of a month, their mile time decreased by three minutes and they no longer needed to walk to take breaks. The student may become an avid walker or runner, inspired by running around a school track!
Improves Peer Relationships
The team-building process enhances communication skills and the skills required to get along and cooperate with students of varying backgrounds and personalities. Additionally, physical education can be a major force in helping children to successfully socialize with others and provides an environment to learn positive people skills. Not every child has the opportunity to be on a team outside of school. So being on a volleyball or softball team during a PE class creates the opportunity to work together, cheer on teammates, and share the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat with classmates.
Provides Stress Relief
Student stress levels are at an all-time high. Involvement in sports, recreational activities, or other forms of physical fitness provide a proven method of stress relief and act as an outlet for releasing tension and anxiety. It is an established scientific fact that regular exercise creates and releases serotonin which in turn helps alleviate stress, improves mood, and generally makes you feel better! Many students may only exercise in PE class, making this time even more important!
Teaches Goal Setting
When students set goals and monitor their fitness along the way, they assume more responsibility for their own health. They also gain a strong sense of competence when they recognize improvements, so their motivation goes up. For instance, PE students often participate in jump roping. Having these students learn the fundamentals, and then increase their jump roping endurance by minute intervals can teach a student that setting reasonable goals can be achieved through perseverance and a little sweat!
Helps Students Achieve Better Grades
The research and evidence are overwhelming, proving that kids who are active, are better students. Period. Check out these 15 studies conducted by universities such as Dartmouth and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Dartmouth study suggests that 12 minutes of exercise can actually improve reading comprehension!
Physical education is an integral part of the total education of every child from kindergarten through college. A high-quality physical education program is needed to increase physical competence, health-related fitness, motivation and enjoyment of physical activity for all students so that they can be physically active for a lifetime.