P.E. Boosts Brainpower
“Parents often think their kids need more time to be in college prep courses, not physical education,” Myer says, “but they fail to realize the brain benefits associated with getting your heart pumping during activity.”
In one study, 20 minutes of walking increased children’s attention spans and helped them focus, even in a noisy setting.
“We know that when kids are active, it prepares their brains for learning,” Richardson says. Also, she notes, children who are more fit come to school more often and have higher test scores than those who are less physically active.
P.E. Improves Social Skills
Kids rely more on technology and gadgets than ever, which means most spend less time being active and learning to problem-solve actively, Richardson says. “So it becomes important to have that interaction during P.E.”
Science backs up those social rewards. Sixth-grade students who were active at least 20 minutes a day scored the highest levels of leadership skills and empathy in a study from the University of Michigan.
P.E. Complements After-School Activities
You already get your kids moving at home? That’s great -- it gets them closer to the 60 minutes of activity they need a day.
But it might not be enough. For one thing, because children spend so much time in school, they need to be active throughout the day, Richardson says, and they might not be moving much during recess.
Also, “parents aren’t necessarily skilled in teaching the movements that children need to learn,” Myer says.
Gym class teaches moves that build strength and coordination, which means kids can get better in other physical activities like running and push-ups. It’s important to learn those motor skills while children are young and their brains are still growing, Myer says.
P.E. Sets Kids Up to Like Exercise
Above all, today’s gym classes aim to set kids up with a lifelong love of fitness. And it’s important that it starts young. “Kids start to notice how they move when they’re 6 or 7 years old,” Myer says.