Physical activity is defined by bodily movements produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure and recognizes physical activity as the content to teach in physical education. Sports, institutionalized play, entails both fundamental and complex bodily movements. Thus, sports is a form of “physical activity” and must be taught in physical education in a developmentally appropriate manner.

From the description about physical activity in the preceding paragraph, the picture is clear, that, the overriding goal for physical education should be to provide youth with physical activity during physical education classes. Such a goal represents tangible outcome from participating in physical activity in physical education. The health rationale for emphasizing physical activity in physical education classes is that:

  1. Physical education is the only required program that theoretically provide Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) to virtually all students, and
  2. Immediate health benefits accrue when MVPA is provided, with students spending 50% of physical education time being physically active (U.S. Public Health Service, 1991)

Aligning Physical Education goals with public health is a good thing because there is evidence on the prevalence and health effects of physical activity that occur in Physical Education or Sports, from multiple cognitive, social, and physical skills objectives (Pate & Hohn, 1994).

Points to Note:

  1. Moving into the Future suggests a NEW Physical Education focus- “Active Physical Education”, one that yields, at least, 50% of MVPA in students. Consistent with the health orientation, providing physical activity during physical education is THE MAJOR indicator of Physical Education quality- because doing physical activity has so many documented benefits.
  2. Physical activity, exercise and physical fitness are terms that describe different concepts. However, they are often confused with one another, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. let us try to distinguish them. We have scratched the surface of physical activity. So, let’s scratch more. You can such the WWW for info about the terms to contribute to the discussion.
  3. So physical activity- let’s call it PA has three important ingredients including
    •      muscle movement
    •      bone or skeletal movement
    •      energy expenditure or burning calories
  4. With these ingredients, it appears PA covers all of the following- just to mention a few:
    •       sports
    •       traditional games and dances
    •       home chores (e.g., car wash, sweeping, weeding or gardening etc)
    •       occupationally-related activities (e.g. digging, shoveling, mixing concrete manually, farming etc)
    •       community keep fit activities
    •       various NGOs programs in communities
    •       active transportation
    •       because physical fitness denotes a condition resulting from participation in a “packaged” or selection of physical activities for the purpose of developing physical fitness, the concept can then be considered as a sub-set of physical activity-  so, in a sense, sports, exercise, physical fitness are all sub-sets of physical activity. As we have    earlier discussed, when muscles and bones move to burn calories, physical activity is defined.
  5. One can engage in different and/or a wide variety of physical activities- those related to occupation such as digging, shoveling, mixing concrete, farming etc. Also those that household chores, gardening, car wash, sweeping, washing clothes, sweeping etc. Additionally, those that relate to recreation and leisure such as walking the dog, leisure walking, traditional past-time games/sports/dance (ampe, adowa etc)- Active play, active transportation and organized sports are all types of physical activities one can engage in.
  6. When one engages in physical fitness program, it means that, various types physical activities have been selected or prescribed, with the intent to develop physical fitness.
    If the content for teaching physical education is focused on physical activity, curriculum for teaching physical education in school will emphasize knowledge, skills and attitudes that encourage and promote regular participation (adherence), active play and active transportation.
  7. Also, a physical activity content focus will feature requirements for children to develop the habit to regularly exercise for 60 minutes or more and for several days of the at moderate-vigorous intensity level.
  8. We want to make clear that sports has a place in school, likewise physical education. As much as possible, we should try to treat them separately. They should have different goals and standards. When physical education content focuses on physical activity, it (PE) will consider all the sub-components of PA to enrich the lives of children in schools.
  9. We have tried to justify physical education by trying to link to several domain benefits without SOLID evidence to support such claims. Perhaps, we have not been able to influence administrators and policy makers about the real values and benefits derivable from physical education. That has been a very serious cancer in our profession for many years.
  10. A profession that want to legitimize itself among other professions must focus on achievable goals and demonstrable evidence. The picture is clear. If physical education focuses on physical activity as the content for teaching physical education, achievable goals and standards can be pursued and tangible outcomes, based on the art and science of physical activity, can be demonstrated- Where should we be looking for directions and evidence to formulate quality goals and tangible outcomes?
    •       examine global and local physical activity recommendations
    •      examine existing policy on physical education for children and youth
    •      consider physical activity indicators that can optimize participation in physical activity, such as, active transport, active play, community and built environment etc.
      etc etc etc……
  11. Kids can only develop the needed approach tendencies if pa is not used as punishment. There so many ways children can be punished without using physical activity. Quality teacher training will instill the appropriate skills and knowledge that can empower future teachers manage well and prevent occurrence of most student misbehavior. There are several preventive management techniques that work and evidence exist supporting supporting such techniques. PA is to be fun not painful.