Some kids live for PE class. But for others, physical education is what they dread most about school and have nightmares about later. "I was the last one picked in gym class" has become cultural shorthand for how PE can lower self-esteem.
What makes PE have such a power in kids' lives? A Canadian study of fourth- to sixth- graders sheds some light on the reason. It found that kids who are considered good athletes by their peers are better liked, while those who are thought to be unskilled often feel lonely, isolated, and rejected by other kids. Loneliness, in turn, is linked to risky behavior and depression in older kids
But if your child has phys ed dread, you can help her overcome it. That can pay off not only in a healthy attitude toward gym, but also in improved fitness, weight control, and grades.
Why Physical Education Matters
A 2009 study showed that just 20 minutes of phys ed helped curb obesity and improve fitness in teens. Other studies show that kids' PE doesn’t take away from time spent learning. In a 2010 review of this research, the CDC found that physical education has a positive impact on academic performance.
Children and teens need at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, according to health experts. PE class can go a long way toward helping them meet that goal.
How to Help When Your Child Hates PE
These tips can help you help your child to have a better experience in PE class.
Young kids: DO dress them for being active. Send kids to school or day care wearing shoes and clothes they can run and climb in. For outdoor activity in winter, a warm jacket, cap, mittens, and sturdy shoes or boots are essential wear as well.
Middle-school kids: DO talk about showering after PE class. Kids this age are often self-conscious about their bodies and may feel embarrassed undressing in front of others. If this is an issue for your child, talk about ways to get greater privacy. For example, you could ask the school to install shower curtains.
Older kids: DON'T let them opt out of phys ed. Many schools allow students to substitute activities such as band or chorus in place of PE. But this sets a poor example, and the health benefits of being physically active are irreplaceable.
Every age: DO let your child know why physical activity is good for them right now: It can help them look, feel, and sleep better. Try to help them see the fun of it and not get caught up in the competitive aspects of PE activities.
Every age: DO be an advocate for kids' PE. Get involved in school committees and fund-raising events to help support physical education in your child's school. You can also advocate for innovative PE activities, such as skateboarding or in-line skating, if your school's program focuses on more traditional competitive games that turn off your child and others.