The World Health Organization And Physical Inactivity Physical Education Essay

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The World Health Organization in 2006 identified physical inactivity as one of the key threats, even greater than smoking to worldwide population health. The benefits of an active lifestyle are many: reduces the risk (up to 50%) of developing heart disease, diabetes (type II), colon cancer, and lower back pain; reduces stress, anxiety and feelings of depression and loneliness; helps control weight; helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints; enhances functional capacity and independent living; promotes psychological well-being, better cognition, social interaction and social integration; helps to minimise the consequences of certain disabilities and can help in the management of painful conditions. The Health Behaviours in School Children (HBSC, 2006) survey showed that over half of primary school age children didn't achieve the recommended level of physical activity. By 15 years of age, almost nine out of 10 girls and seven out of 10 boys don't achieve the recommended level.

There is a perception exists that participation in physical activity and sport may have an adverse effect on academic performance, this study will explore whether this perception has any grounding.

In a recent review articles on the relationship of physical activity and academic performance, the authors made a number of conclusions with regard to these theories showing some positive correlations and others no effect on academic performance.

Trudeau and Shephard (2008) indicated that significant knowledge exists regarding the kinds of intervention programmes likely to have positive effects on children and adolescents overall development. Additionally, the literature strongly suggests that the academic achievement, physical fitness and health of our children will not be improved by limiting the time allocated to physical education instruction, school physical activity and sports programmes.

Nelson and Gordan-Larsen 2006 reported from a study of nearly 12000 US high school students, that those who participated in school based physical activities or playing school sport with there parents were 20% more likely than their sedentary counterparts to earn an A grade in Math or English. A Canadian study conducted by Shephard in 1996, examined the effects on 546 elementary students academic performance of one additional hour per day of physical education. Those in grades 2-6 who received the additional physical education, got better grades in French, Maths, English and science, compared to students who received the standard one period per week. Tremarche et al (2007) conducted a study of 311 4th grade students in two schools. They found that students who received 56 ore more hours of physical education in a school year, scored significantly higher on Massachusetts standardised tests in English and Language art, compared to students who received 28 hours of physical education per year. However the study did not show to have significant difference on maths scores. Following this a longitudinal study that was conducted by the centres for disease control and prevention followed two national samples involving 5316 students from kindergarten to 5th grade. This study showed that girls who participated in physical education for 70 or more minutes per week had significantly higher achievement scores in maths and reading, than the girls who enrolled in physical education for 35 or fewer minutes per week. However among the boys, greater exposure to physical education was neither negatively associated with academic achievement (Carlson et al, 2008) .

For the case of reducing physical education in schools, it is further criticized by other studies that show a significant positive relationship between physical fitness and academic performance. Such correlations were found in national health surveys that involved large representative samples of children and teens from across the world such as USA, Australia, Iceland, Hong Kong and the UK (Trost, 2007).

However other studies carried out, show conflicting issues with regard to a link between physical education and academic results. One of such studies was conducted by (Dwyer et al, 1983) where researchers in Australia studied 350 5th graders in 7 schools throughout the country. They increased instructional time for physical education for some students by 210 minutes per week. However after 14 weeks, there was no significant differences in math or reading skills between students who received additional physical education instruction and those who completed the standard 30 minutes period of physical education per week. Following on from this another study that yielded little in academic performance correlation between physical activity and physical education was a study by Sallis et al, 1999, this study involved conducting an investigation in California on the effects of academic achievement over an intensive 2 year program in 7 different schools, where they doubled the amount of time elementary students spent in physical education. Again in this study neither overall academic achievement nor achievement in language arts and reading were adversely effected. Coe et al, 2006 in a study of 214 6th grade students in Michigan found that students had grades and standardised test scores, similar to those of students who were not taking physical education, despite receiving nearly an hour less of daily instruction in core academic subjects. The authors found no significant relationship between physical education or physical activity and standardized test scores. However what Coe et al, 2006 did find was that while physical education was not related to academic achievement physical activity engagement meeting some or all of the Healthy People 2010 guidelines for vigorous physical activity was significantly related to higher grades over two semesters.

Examining a more recent study by Ahamed et al, 2007 in British Columbia, involving 287 4th and 5th grade students, where 10 elementary schools participated in the study. They evaluated the effects of daily classroom physical activity sessions on academic performance. It found students who attended schools implementing the program spent approximately 50 more minutes per week in physical activity , that there standardised test scores in maths, reading and language art were equivalent to the those of students in the control group.