Why Physical Education is as Important as Academics

W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle/High School Principal; M.A. in Educational Leadership

Physical education is exactly what the name of the course implies. P.E. is a subject that seeks to educate students in the area of physical fitness. P.E. is usually a hands-on experience that allows students to physically participate in learning. The truth be known, the benefits of physical education in schools is as important to a student’s education as the traditional classroom and for some, perhaps even more important.

The Physical Benefits of P.E.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of P.E. is simply the physical aspect of the subject. In contemporary society, we see multitudes of people struggle with obesity, poor muscle tone, lack of energy, and very sedentary lifestyles. P.E. teaches students how to perform multiple physical activities including individual sports, team sports, exercise regimens, and the benefits of stretching muscles to enhance performance.

Through P.E. students learn how to overcome physical challenges that plague our society and often themselves as well. Additionally, through physical activity, students find themselves performing at a higher energy level in other settings, including the regular classroom. Through P.E. students can gain strength and endurance which obviously benefits them in other aspects of their life.

By experiencing various physical activities, whether sports or exercise regimens, some students may and often do find a “niche” that they would have never sought to seek out on their own. At the very least students involved in a well-disciplined P.E. program find themselves in better overall physical condition. Students in P.E. also learn valuable physical activities that they can carry on for a lifetime which makes for a more healthy and productive adult.

The Psychological Benefits of P.E.

Students engaged in P.E. can also benefit psychologically. As students participate, they will often quickly see physical changes in their bodies that increase self-esteem. Further, if someone else notices and comments on a person’s physical change and mentions it, the student receives a positive mental lift.

P.E. often requires a student to engage in vigorous activity and strive for proficiency which leads to self-confidence in the classroom, as well as in their secular life. This confidence gained can open many other doors as the student becomes more accustomed to facing and overcoming challenges.

P.E. at its core can help a student become more well-rounded in everything that they do by simply giving them a physical outlet to experiment with without fear of failure. Any attempt in P.E. can be positive regardless of the initial outcome. Just knowing that it’s okay to try your best regardless of the outcome can spur a student psychologically to try their best.

The Social Benefits of P.E.

Students involved in P.E. learn early on the importance of proper social interactions. Students must interact with each other in a positive way in order to be successful. This is especially true in team sports which are often taught in P.E. However, it can be a simple as working with another student during an exercise class. Students must learn to cooperate with others and get along in order to be successful. P.E. teaches the concept of teamwork and sportsmanship.

Additionally, P.E. teaches competitiveness and the desire to see yourself and your team be successful by working together. This “team” concept can also carry over to the regular classroom in areas like group assignments. Through P.E. students learn how to depend on others and to “carry their weight” through physical activity.

P.E. also helps students socially by teaching the right way to win and yes, sometimes to lose. Students through teamwork learn to work diligently toward a common goal along with others. This teamwork teaches the importance of working together, learning your and your teammates strengths and weaknesses, and how to work within the parameters of a team concept. These important benefits help students throughout life to work with others to achieve the desired outcome both individually and within a group.

P.E. can also be a very important outlet for a student that struggles with social interactions and/or behavior issues. Often times, a student learns through P.E. how to get along with others to achieve a common goal. Through physical activity, a student finds alternate ways to deal with what they view as adversity. A student that can learn in a P.E. setting to subdue their aggressive behavioral actions can often learn also how to reduce these same actions in the regular classroom and outside of school as well. The student that learns to overcome their behavioral problems through P.E. is well on the way to behaving in a socially acceptable way and finding themselves on track for success.

Physical education at its core is provided to help a student primarily in the area of physical needs. But P.E. is so much more than that and can be used physically and mentally in most every aspect of a person’s life. There is one more aspect of P.E. I would like to mention. That aspect is “play”. Often in P.E. students get the opportunity to learn all of these things that have been discussed through “play”. And let’s face it, sometimes it’s okay to just PLAY!

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