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Should Your School Get Rid of Phys Ed?

Gym class is supposed to be good for your health. But does it really help everyone? 

Art by R.J. Matson

    In eighth grade, Vyshnavi [vish-NAH-vee] Viju hated gym class. She hated the “Pacer” most of all. On Pacer days, everyone would run laps around the gym. The more laps you finished, the higher your grade. “It was one of the hardest experiences of my life,” she says. 

    Vyshnavi passed the Pacer. But the running made her stomach ache for the rest of the day. And the kids who didn’t do well had it worse. “It really hurt their self-confidence,” she says. 

    Vyshnavi always wondered: Wouldn’t it be great if she never had to go to gym again?

    In eighth grade, Vyshnavi [vish-NAH-vee] Viju hated gym class. She hated the “Pacer” most of all. On Pacer days, students would run laps around the gym. The more laps you ran, the higher your grade. “It was one of the hardest experiences of my life,” she says.

    Vyshnavi passed the Pacer. But the running made her stomach hurt for the rest of the day. And the kids who didn’t do well had it worse. “It really hurt their self-confidence,” she says.

    Vyshnavi always wondered: Wouldn’t it be great if she never had gym again?

    In eighth grade, Vyshnavi [vish-NAH-vee] Viju hated gym class. She especially hated the “Pacer.” On Pacer days, everyone would run laps around the gym. The more laps you completed, the higher your grade. “It was one of the hardest experiences of my life,” she recalls.

    Vyshnavi passed the Pacer, but the running made her stomach ache for the rest of the day. And the kids who didn’t do well had it worse. “It really hurt their self-confidence,” she says.

    Vyshnavi often fantasized about never having to go to gym class again. 

A Healthy Habit

Art by R.J. Matson

    Plenty of students share Vyshnavi’s wish. And for many of them, it’s coming true. In the past 20 years, schools have been cutting back on physical education (PE). Only five states now make you go to PE in every grade. 

    This move away from PE has health experts worried. Those laps around the gym may be painful. But they’re good for you. Doctors say you should get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. Not many people reach that goal. PE can help teens get active—and stay active as adults.

    But exercise isn’t just good for the body. Research shows that it’s good for the mind too. A workout can make you more alert in class. It can also improve your memory and make you less stressed.

    Karli Waldrep definitely thinks that’s true. Her Illinois high school has a PE activity called Pound. It’s a workout using heavy drumsticks, and Karli loves it. Beating on things helps her relax. “For the 45 minutes you’re in PE, you don’t have to worry about your classes,” she says.

    Many students share Vyshnavi’s wish. And for some, it’s coming true. In the past 20 years, schools have been cutting back on physical education (PE). Only five states now make you go to PE in every grade.

This move away from PE has health experts worried. Running laps may be painful. But it’s good for you. Doctors say you should get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. Not many people reach that goal. PE can help teens get active—and stay active as adults.

Exercise is good for the body. And it’s also good for the mind. A workout can make you more alert in class. It can improve your memory and make you less stressed too.

Karli Waldrep says that’s true. Her Illinois high school has a PE activity called Pound. It’s a workout using heavy drumsticks, and Karli loves it. Beating on things helps her relax. “For the 45 minutes you’re in PE, you don’t have to worry about your classes,” she says.

    Plenty of students share Vyshnavi’s wish—and for many of them, it’s coming true. In the past 20 years, schools have been cutting back on physical education (PE). Only five states now require students to take PE in every grade.

    This move away from PE has health experts worried. Those laps around the gym may be painful, but they also have benefits. Doctors say you should get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. Not many people reach that goal. PE can help teens get active—and stay active as adults.

    Research shows that exercise is good for the mind as well as the body. A workout can make you more alert in class. It can also improve your memory and reduce your stress level.

    Karli Waldrep definitely thinks that’s true. Her Illinois high school has a PE activity called Pound. It’s a workout using heavy drumsticks, and Karli loves it. Beating on things helps her relax. “For the 45 minutes you’re in PE, you don’t have to worry about your classes,” she says.

A Waste of Time

    But some people say PE doesn’t really help the body or the mind. In most gym classes, a lot of time is wasted. Kids spend more than half of each class changing their clothes or standing around. 

    And what if PE is the class you worry about? For students like Vyshnavi, those 45 minutes add stress to the day. Plus, bad experiences in gym class can make kids hate exercise forever. “PE is supposed to help you form good habits for life,” she says. “But it didn’t help anyone I know.” 

    Some schools are trying to make PE more helpful by giving students choices. Vyshnavi might have been happier at Karli’s school, for example. Instead of running the Pacer, she could have played Ping-Pong or golf. She could have gone for a walk. Or she could have pounded on things with heavy sticks. 

    That sure sounds better than a stomachache, doesn’t it?

    But some people say PE doesn’t really do much good. In most gym classes, a lot of time is wasted. Kids spend more than half the class changing clothes or standing around.  And what if PE is the class you worry about? In that case, it just adds stress. And bad experiences in PE can make kids hate exercise. 

Some schools are trying to make PE more helpful by giving students choices. Vyshnavi might have been happier at Karli’s school, for instance. Instead of running laps, she could have played Ping-Pong or golf. She could have gone for a walk. Or she could have pounded on things with sticks.

Sounds better than a stomachache, right?

    But some people say PE doesn’t really help the body or the mind. In most gym classes, a considerable amount of time is wasted. Students spend more than half of each class changing their clothes or standing around.

    And what if PE is the class you worry about? For students like Vyshnavi, those 45 minutes add stress to the day. Plus, negative experiences in gym class can make kids hate exercise forever. “PE is supposed to help you form good habits for life,” Vyshnavi notes, “but it didn’t help anyone I know.”

    Some schools are trying to make PE more valuable by offering students options. Vyshnavi might have been happier at Karli’s school, for example. Instead of running the Pacer, she could have taken a walk, played Ping-Pong or golf, or pounded on things with heavy sticks.

    That certainly sounds better than a stomachache, doesn’t it?

ACTIVITY: 
Should your school get rid of phys ed?

What to do: Use evidence from the article to support each side of this debate. Write the information on a separate piece of paper.

What to do: Use evidence from the article to support each side of this debate. Write the information on a separate piece of paper.

What to do: Use evidence from the article to support each side of this debate. Write the information on a separate piece of paper.

Yes! It adds too much stress.

Yes! It adds too much stress.

Yes! It adds too much stress.

No! It keeps us connected.

No! It keeps us connected.

No! It keeps us connected.

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