PE: Physical Education or Permanent Exhaustion?

Jennell Searle

Forcing unathletic kids to do unnecessary workouts is the equivalent of beating a dead horse! (Jennell Searle)

When you think of P.E class, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? The lack of time to play games in Lifetime Wellness? The extensive, hardcore workouts in Strength and Speed? Or is it the excruciating pain and soreness that comes after completing either class for the day? These are some of the many reasons why P.E class is entirely unnecessary and shouldn’t be a requirement for high-school graduation regardless of the circumstances.

Back when Mr. Peters was the Lifetime Wellness gym teacher, gym class used to be one of the easiest classes. The only workout that we had to face, however, was a few laps around the gym. Even then, running a few laps was pushing my limits; not everyone can be expected to run some laps perfectly without a break, or even without walking. The minute we’re caught walking during the laps, and even now, we’re forced to continue to run. That also meant even if we were sore or weren’t feeling the best.

I faced one of these times in my sophomore year, having told myself that if I need to walk because I’m tired, then I will. After a harsh yelling from Mr. Peters that brought me to tears and being sent to the office, this was just one of many instances where I wished P.E class wasn’t required. And trust me, ever since the new gym teacher came along, these exercises didn’t get any easier. Day in and day out, it’s just one hardcore workout after another with hardly any room for breaks.

Monday, yoga where we’re pushing against our flexibility and shifting into uncomfortable poses. Tuesday and Wednesday, cardio where we’re working out our heart, lungs, and mostly our legs. Thursday, Tabata where we have more time on these hardcore workout stations than we do off. Friday, full-body workout where every part of the body is worked out and nothing is left unchecked… A lot of the time, we only have 10-15 minutes to play any of the games the class provides! Don’t these sound even the slightest bit unfair? I know for a fact I’m not the only one who thinks so.

According to an article from The Pitch analyzing Texas’ Fitness Now Program, physical education has “no effect on children’s BMI (body mass index, the estimate of body fat that gauges your risk for diseases)”. This article also talks about how the athletic kids take over the activities in the class, thus making the unathletic kids feel intimidated and unimportant and a hierarchy to be created. Because of this, a 2016 study showcased that attendance decreases for schools that require P.E. in all four years of high school due to ditching gym classes. If these students aren’t interested in sports, what makes teachers think that they’ll be interested in participating in P.E. class?

“Oh, P.E class helps with teaching healthy habits and building a character for yourself!” some may argue. Well, have you considered that P.E. time takes away time for other classes such as math, language arts, or science? Or that a class like this isn’t necessarily for everyone? Imagine the scrawny quiet kid that can’t lift heavy weights, the overweight kid that can’t run very fast due to their weight, the girl who’s on her period and can’t participate much, or even the kid who has a severe injury like a broken leg and can’t participate at all. Are these types of kids considered whenever mandatory gym classes are brought up?

“You seem relatively healthy and skinny, you just want to be lazy and avoid gym class!” This is another point I can already hear being brought up. Yes, I am considered healthy and skinny, but I face a variety of pain when attending gym class just from doing the bare minimum. In the future, if I had to pick a way to stay healthy, whether it be the workouts/lessons we learned in Lifetime Wellness or a 20-30 minute workout by merely walking, I’d pick the latter if it means that I can say I live a “healthy lifestyle”.

An article from The Atlantic called “Why P.E. is Terrible” also provides further reasons as to why physical education for children is failing. These include bullying in locker rooms where adult supervision is limited as well as daily P.E requirements (30 minutes of P.E every school day); Yes, we may not have to do gym class every day, but taking a gym class at around 7:15 in the morning for early bird just so you don’t have to do it within the school day says a lot about our school’s views on the “importance” of physical education. According to the study that was featured in this article, disciplinary actions for each student increased by roughly 16 percent while the population of misbehaving students increased by more than a solid 7 percent. Even if our school necessarily doesn’t apply the Fitness Now Program, the effects of it are still visible within our student population.

If you’re wondering, this isn’t a jab at the overly-athletic students who actually enjoy gym class; If you’re satisfied with a class like this, then by all means keep enjoying and participating in it! But in a perfect world, all gym classes would be listed as elective/optional classes, nobody would have to go through unnecessary suffering, and school life here at Mount Vernon may just be a little bit happier.