Leadership

Physical Education Group Looks to Innovate Gym Class

By / Sep 5, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

A group involved with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative is working to get students active by revamping gym classes across the country in more engaging ways.

Who needs dodgeball and tag when you can rock-climb or Zumba?

The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, a managing organization of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS) initiative, provides plenty of thoughts on that question as it urges schools to reimagine how they structure gym classes.

“We have schools with rock-climbing walls, Zumba classes, inline skating—amazing stuff that I would have loved to have when I was a kid,” Carly Braxton, senior program manager for AAHPERD, told Reuters, adding that even in schools with budget concerns, physical education teachers are “finding innovative ways to get kids moving.”

In May, AAHPERD endorsed a report by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine that found “only about half of youth meet the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation of at least 60 minutes of daily vigorous or moderate–intensity physical activity.”

“The IOM report reinforces the importance of schools as a venue for children getting at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity every day,” said E. Paul Roetert, CEO of AAHPERD, in a statement issued that month. “It also supports our LMAS goals, which provide simple steps and tools, including monetary support and training, to help schools create active environments where students get 60 minutes of daily physical activity through quality physical education and physical activity before, during, and after the school day.”

The IOM report suggested a “whole-of-school” approach is the best option to maximize benefits for students. According to the AAHPERD, that includes participation from teachers, principals, school administrators, superintendents, students, and parents. It recommends that schools provide access to at least 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity, more than half of which should be accomplished during regular school hours, including “high-quality physical education classes.”

“It is absolutely critical that we work to ensure equity so that all students have access to physical activity and physical education,” AAHPERD President Gale Wiedow said in a statement. “To do that we need to garner support from local, district, and state education administrators, school boards, and parent-teacher organizations as well as support from local, state, and federal government. I urge physical educators around the country to embrace this report and to educate everyone about the benefits of healthy, physically active, and educated students.”

AAHPERD isn’t the only organization in favor of innovative gym classes. Jessica Matthews, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise, told Reuters that her group encourages “teacher-initiated activity breaks” and programs like “yoga and martial arts.”

“Our kids get squirmy and stressed out,” Jacalyn Lea Lund, a professor at Georgia State University and past president of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, told the news service. “We know activity can relieve a lot of stress.”

Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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