Physical Education vs. Physical Activity


This week Michelle Obama hosted a live chat and took questions from the field as they announced the new look to the Let’s Move! website. This movement has been exceptional way to raise awareness and a call to action to improve the health of our families in this country.

One disturbing piece of information continues to hamper physical education successfully moving forward. The terms “physical activity” and “physical education” are often used interchangeably, yet they differ in important ways. Understanding the difference between the two is critical to understanding why both contribute to the development of healthy, active children. Think of this: Physical Activity is a behavior. Physical Education (PE) is a core subject area with a curriculum that includes physical activity.

Here is NASPE’s definition of physical activity vs. physical education:

To those of us at SPARK, and certainly to the researchers, active classes is a hallmark of quality Physical Education. A PE class in which students are standing or sitting most of the time cannot be a good PE class. PE is about teaching through the physical. The goal is to teach movement skills, teamwork, and positive social interactions, as well as improve fitness and promote the joy of movement by getting students active. Right?

What are your thoughts??

-Kymm Ballard, Ed.D