To say that physical activity has played a huge part in my life is a bit of an understatement. I was lucky enough to be raised in a household where my parents could pay for me to be on soccer teams and send me to soccer camps. The ability to do that influenced almost all of my decisions growing up as I prioritized my time around training and being the best I could be in order to get myself to college ball. Considering my life has revolved around sports and physical activity, it is no big surprise that I value health and wellness.
You can imagine my distaste when I read articles in Huffington Post and the New York Times this week regarding gym class being cut and increased obesity concerns. One of the main reasons I am such a supporter of expanding learning time and why I’ve chosen a career in this particular space of education reform is because I know what more time can offer students in ensuring a well-rounded education, particularly around PE. Yet many schools, due to budget cuts and an emphasis on academic performance because of No Child Left Behind, are reducing or eliminating their physical education programs.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. However, a 2009 survey found that only 18 percent of high school students adhered to this recommendation, while only 33 percent attended physical education class each day. I’m sadly not surprised that these numbers are so low. It’s not hard to believe that the traditional school day, already packed to the brim with core academics and test preparation, isn’t able to provide the appropriate amount of physical education students need with its current time constraints.
Especially for students who struggle with core subjects, the addition of classes like physical education has been shown to improve their educational experience and can lead to greater academic achievement. Expanding the school day can help alleviate the pressure felt by teachers and administrators in prioritizing this subject over that. It allows schools to dedicate the time students need in both critical subjects like science, history, and reading and physical education. And I know, you can only do so much in a 6.5 hour school day, but imagine a re-designed school day where the core and beyond the core are able to co-exist in perfect school day harmony. I think it’s time we stop imagining such harmony and start making an updated school day a reality for our students.