Gambling with our Future, Part 2: Implications of Removing Physical Education from Schools


Editor’s Note: This is the second part of our two-part pe-infographicseries about how physical education has been impacted by national budget cuts. To read Part 1, click here.

In our last piece, we discussed the current happenings in this political and economic milieu as they relate to the state of education and the health of our children. There is no federal law requiring schools to provide students with physical education. Nor are there incentives for schools to do so. Instead, states are allotted the power to set requirements, but school districts are responsible for actually implementing them.

With very little funding, many schools have cut physical education altogether. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), the median budget for physical education in schools across the country is $764 per year—not much. View the infographic on this White House budget page to put into perspective how much of the U.S. budget goes into education.

Why is a lack of physical education in our schools bad for our children, their future, and our nation?

PE and Academic Performance

American schools have backed away from physical education classes in favor of rigorous academic focus so that the United States can compete in a challenging and advanced global market. While this may seem like a reasonable and necessary thing to do, it does more harm than good.

According to studies by NASPE and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), attending physical education classes is directly related to better academic performance and attitude toward school. Physical activity promotes brain function and psychological well-being, reduces anxiety, and increases overall energy and attention span.

Additionally, a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) concludes that physical activity as taught in physical education classes and school sports can help prevent risky behaviors like smoking, doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and unhealthy eating; antisocial behaviors and violence; and pregnancy. The report concludes that “There is a clear consensus that children and youth should be involved in physical activity on a regular basis, and that teaching/reward systems should encourage active participation and enjoyment by all students, not just the highly skilled.”

Less Physical Education, More Obesity

In all of this, the obvious deduction is that less physical activity equals more unhealthy children. The CDC reports that 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 are obese. That’s twelve and a half million children that are obese in America—almost a fifth of our future. This figure has tripled since 1980. Almost 34 percent of adults are obese.
Overweight and obese children are at high risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, low self-esteem, joint, bone, and muscle problems, and more.

Increased Health Care Spending

State and federal government may think slashing PE programs will save money. Perhaps this is true of short-term, narrow thinking. In the long term, however, decreased physical education in school means fewer healthy lifestyle choices. This leads to more sedentary lifestyles, an increased prevalence of heart disease and other weight-related health issues, and  higher health care costs for America.

PE is cost effective; $147 billion is spent yearly on obesity-related health care costs. With an upward trend in obesity, this figure can only grow. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Funds spent on teaching youth how to live a healthy lifestyle are worth billions to the health care industry and America’s tight budget.

Concluding Thoughts

By not teaching our children how to live a healthy, well-balanced life, we rob them of their well-being. Physical wellness is not just something that comes naturally to us—we have evolved in this world—we don’t have to do hard labor just to survive, we don’t live off our own land anymore. In other words, physical wellness is not inherent in our lifestyle anymore; it directly opposes it. Physical wellness requires teaching, just like learning a language that will be used throughout our entire lives. Physical education teachers “focus on the skills and knowledge needed to establish and sustain an active lifestyle” (Shape of the Nation Report).

Maybe the lack of physical education in schools is less of a gamble with our future than an outright dismissal of it.

  • PETEstudent

    I believe that the whole point of going to school is to prepare our students for the future. We want our students to be able to walk out in to the real world and be successful. Of course being able to read and write as necessities but as the article states our world has changed. We are no longer doing manual labor for eight hours a day. Before it was natural to get physical activity in everyday but now we need to set away the time to be physically active. I think that by taking physical education out of the schools it is robbing our students of a necessity that they need to live a long happy healthy life. Watching our obesity rates in this country grow is getting out of control. We need to keep physical education in school so we are able to educate our students on something that is so important to their lives.

  • superman21

    I could not agree more with the statements that are being
    made in the article above. I understand that our society is going through a
    rough economic time and that school funding is being cut back, but I
    don't think that taking physical education away from our students is the
    answer. Removing physical education in order to focus on other school requirements such as math, science, and reading may help increase those scores a little, but why at the cost of childhood obesity? It is important for students to receive daily physical education in order to help them develop positive fitness habits at a young age, which they can hopefully use the rest of the lives. If we continue to decrease the amount of time that we allow for physical education in our schools, then we are only going to see higher numbers of overweight and obese children (which turn into obese adults). The statistics in the article do not lie, obesity is a major issue sweeping across our country and the longer we ignore it, the greater the consequences will be. For those individuals that feel that physical education is irrelevant, I ask your recommendations for providing fitness information and healthy lifestyle choices to students all across the country. We can either try to spend a little more now or spend a lot later on Health care bills. Just think about it.

  • This rattled me, honestly. Why would they think removing PE will be the solution to our problems?

  • PE2012

    My thoughts on physical education being removed from the
    academic curriculum of schools are very similar to the ones previously
    stated.  Finances within this
    economy are consistently declining. 
    Declining funds directly correlate to job cuts and academics getting cut
    back as well.  Like the article
    states, cutting physical education would essentially save the school district
    money but only temporarily.  People
    would pay the price for cutting this vital part of learning from their
    schooling.  Physical activity is
    necessary in our daily lives due to evolution from being hunter/gatherers to
    relying on technological advances in transportation and facilitating moving
    workloads.  Even if the U.S. budget
    were saved from spending on P.E, even more of the budget would be spent on
    Healthcare costs related to obesity. 
    Health and wellness is a large part of physical education that goes hand
    in hand with the physical activity learned within the class.  This part of a student’s academia aids
    in prevention of obesity and gives students the necessary skills to continue a
    physically active and well-balanced lifestyle.  Prevention of obesity is key to ward off the hypokinetic
    diseases that currently plague over half of American adults.  The need to have a well-rounded
    education includes a healthy and strong mind and body.       

  • redbird1021

    I just want to say that reading and hearing about all of the budget cuts toward education make me frustrated.  Especially, when all of the extracurricular classes:  Physical Education, Band, Chorus, Theater, etc.. are the first places that administrators look to make their cuts.  There are facts all over the place that show when a student spends time in classes other than the core subjects; stress levels are lowered and anxiety levels drop in students.  With the lowered stress and anxiety levels, comes better focus and higher achievements in the core subjects.  It is well known and documented that physical activity is good for the human body.  Exercise is a key component to building strong bones, muscles, brain function, and releasing toxins, which cause stress and anxiety, from the body.  Physical educators are trained to teach students how to become physically active so that they can build a strong body and mind.  If there is an elimination of Physical Education, who will teach our young people how to be active in order to maintain any resemblance of a healthy life.  Parents always have the excuse that they are too busy and that they do not have enough time to exercise with their children.  This is just another example of why there is such a great need for Physical Education in our schools for the children.  We think that obesity issues are bad now, just wait and see what will happen if Physical Education classes are cut from the education curriculum.  There is way too much money ($147 billion) being spent on obesity-related health care issues in this country.  One of the biggest preventives of obesity is exercise!!!  When exercise and physical activity are SO GOOD for the body, why would somebody want to eliminate that from our schools.  I get excited when I see families out for bike rides or walks in my neighborhood.  I just wish that I would see much more of these practices all over this country.  Get out and do something physically active America!!!

  • blog Comments


    Physical Education and
    .Physical fitness not only gives you a perfect body.