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The State of the Student Body

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 -- Kristin Flynn

A new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) addresses the overall well-being of today's student body. And its conclusion is that generally – the American student body is out of shape.

In its report, Educating the Student Body – Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School, the IOM notes that “like most of the population of the United States, children and adolescents have grown accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle.”  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The report points to the significant impact of physical activity on body fat, muscular strength, and cardiovascular and metabolic health. In addition, the report refers to a growing body of evidence that “suggests a relationship between...physical activity and the structure and functioning of the brain. Children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.” This link is a critical to understanding the importance of physical education in schools; a child's overall development, not just physical development, is a function of physical activity and health.

But schools face formidable challenges in providing effective and equitable physical education, including fiscal pressures, safety concerns, and policy pressures. Because of those challenges, schools need backup from federal and state governments, parents, and administrators to implement a holistically healthy curriculum that includes an adequate physical education component. And by “adequate,” the IOM recommends that schools should provide at least 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity. In order to accomplish this, the IOM says that “physical education should be designated as a core subject.” The report's six general recommendations also include considering physical activity in all school-related policy decisions and providing preservice training and professional development for teachers.

But, given the challenges indicated above, in addition to the fact that students are in school for a limited amount of time, how can schools provide the levels of physical activity required for optimal health and learning? One emerging resource is online PE courses. “Online” and “PE” are not often thought of together, but online learning can bring the same benefits, effectiveness, and efficiencies to PE that it brings to other curricular areas. And, as you might guess, Edmentum offers Physical Education as part of its electives offering.

Rigor and effectiveness are consistent characteristics of Edmentum courses, and Physical Education is no different. The Edmentum Physical Education course was developed with the same research-based and pedagogically sound methodology as other Edmentum courses. The semester-long course contains three units; Getting Active, Improving Performance, and Lifestyle. Each of these units contains a pretest, lessons, unit activities, and assessments. For example, the lessons in Unit 2 include Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Endurance, Muscular Strength and Endurance, Flexibility, and Biomechanics and Movement, with each lesson containing a specific objective and the lessons supported by unit activities. And the course concludes with an end-of-semester test. The course not only includes a wide variety of physical activities, but the teacher's guide provides recommendations on alternative activities to ensure the widest range of access for students.

To invigorate your students with improved levels of physical activity, consider online PE to supplement and enhance your curriculum. It can help you create a healthier and higher achieving student body.