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Physical Education and Learning

Students Must be Healthy to Learn: Students Must Learn to be Healthy

The primary goal of school is to ensure that children are educated and gain the knowledge and skills to be productive and successful individuals. Part of this education includes educating students on how to be physically active across their lifespan. Some of the benefits of physical education include helping students to develop motor skills, set goals related to physical activity, provide practice in a range of activities and movements, teach self-discipline and leadership, and encourage students to explore new strategies for maintaining a healthful lifestyle.

Schools are an ideal setting for teaching students how to adopt and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle which provides both mental and physical health benefits. In addition to physical benefits like strong bones and muscles, physical activity, as part of a regular physical education class, decreases the risk that students will become obese and develop weight related diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It may also help to reduce anxiety and depression and increase energy and feelings of well-being.

But, did you know that regular physical activity can help students to improve their concentration, memory, and classroom behavior. Research shows that students who participate in more physical education have better math and reading test scores than those who have less time in physical education.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) encourages schools to include 150 minutes of physical education per week at the elementary level and 225 minutes per week at the secondary level as part of every student's schedule. In Massachusetts MGL Chapter 71, Section 3, schools are required to teach physical education, as a required course, to all students in every grade, K-12.


Chapter 71: Section 3. Physical education

Section 3. Physical education shall be taught as a required subject in all grades for all students in the public schools for the purpose of promoting the physical well-being of such students. Instruction in physical education may include calisthenics, gymnastics and military drill; but no pupil shall be required to take part in any military exercise if his parent or guardian is of any religious denomination conscientiously opposed to bearing arms, or is himself so opposed, and the school committee is so notified in writing; and no pupil shall be required to take part in physical education exercises if a licensed physician certifies in writing that in his opinion such physical education exercises would be injurious to the pupil.

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Guidance related to physical education in schools can be found at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: