Most school districts include physical education as part of the academic curriculum. P.E. has caused some controversy in the past as some parents feel that school is a place to learn and not to sweat. However, a new study finds that children who engage in physical education actually outperform those in schools where P.E. is either not taught or is emphasized to a lesser degree.
The study was conducted in Sweden and consisted of over 200 students from first to third grade. The students’ academic activity was followed for nine years. Some of the subjects received physical education five days a week as well as additional training in skills that improved their motor, reflex and coordination.
The results showed that 96 percent of students who received additional P.E got grades that made them eligible for the honor roll and advanced placement courses. This is compared to 89 percent for those who did not receive the extra physical training.
The difference was even more apparent among boys. Male students who spent more time in physical education training also scored significantly higher in the classroom on subjects like math and English.
The study also showed that by the time these students reached their freshman year in high school, 93 percent of the subjects who took P.E. displayed better physical motor skills, compared to just 53 percent for those in the other group.
At this point, it is not entirely clear how physical education helps students learn in the classroom. It is believed that the time spent engaging in exercise and socializing are contributing factors.
The study appears to be another reason for keeping physical education around. Learning should not be limited to the classroom. By teaching students how to stay active, schools are conditioning kids how to prepare for a long-term healthy lifestyle.