Lack of physical education

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Lack of physical education is the inadequacy of the provision and effectiveness of exercise and physical activity within modern education.[1]

When physical education fails to meet its goals of providing students with the knowledge base, life habits, and mindset necessary to be physically active throughout their lifetime,[2] it can lead children to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. According a 2010 study by the WHO, 81% of children aged 11–17 worldwide did not meet the minimum recommended exercise guidelines of 60 minutes daily.[3]

A physical education class for secondary students in Havana, Cuba.

Albeit more prevalent in countries of high income,[4] physical inactivity is an international issue that is correlated with an obesity epidemic[5] and negative physical,[6] psychological,[7] and academic consequences [8] in children.

Elementary students playing with a parachute in their physical education class in Leland, North Carolina, USA.


  • 1 Causes
  • 2 Consequences
    • 2.1 Physical
    • 2.2 Psychological
  • 3 Lack of physical education in Canada
    • 3.1 Guidelines
      • 3.1.1 Daily exercise requirements
      • 3.1.2 Other physical health recommendations
      • 3.1.3 The 5-2-1-0 Rule
    • 3.2 Current trends
    • 3.3 Government policies: Towards a Healthier Canada
    • 3.4 Provincial physical education initiatives
    • 3.5 Recommendations for Canadian physical education curriculum
  • 4 Lack of physical education in the United States
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


The causes of lack of physical education vary from country to country. These include a shortage in facilities and equipment, a paucity of physical education teachers, large class sizes, and budgetary constraints.[9] In some African countries such as Botswana and Malawi, where children attend school for a minimal amount of time, the budgets allocated for physical education are instead used to concentrate on subjects such as languages and mathematics.[10]. Something extremely important to take into account is that physical education can be improved outside of school as well. It is important for children to receive a formal physical education in school; however, learning about physical fitness and increasing activity levels becomes easier when they are also educated about health and physical activity at home. In a situation like Botswana and Malawi, this may be the only time that these children will learn about physical activity; therefore, the adults of this community should take physical education into their own hands. They could do this by learning the basics about the recommended physical activity levels for children, and by promoting this for their children and other children of their community.

A lack of physical education also arises from cultural views: in parts of Central America (such as the Bahamas) and Asia (such as Pakistan), exercise is seen as a form of leisure that should not be featured in an academic curriculum.[11] Another example exists in India, where girls are often discouraged from engaging in sports because such activity is viewed as “unfeminine”, as is the possibility of them becoming too muscular.[12]

Moreover, a lack of governmental legislation and intervention can be to blame. In parts of South America (with the exception of Chile and Colombia), there are no laws that make physical education compulsory: thus, it is omitted from many schools.[13]

In other cases, such as in areas of the United States, the mandated physical education hours are simply not met.[14] For example, in 33 states, students are permitted to be exempt from physical education courses by replacing them with other activities such as marching band practices.[15]

Outside of school, children often fail to engage in physical activity due to lack of physical literacy, inadequate sleep, the increasing attractiveness of rival pastimes such as video games, and parents that do not play their part. It is important that parents allow their children the full opportunity to participate in both formal and informal sports and promote healthy healthy physical activity levels. Also, in achievement-oriented populations such as those seen in China, there is an increased emphasis on academic results which also detracts from physical activity time.[16]


Physical consequences of obesity

An increase in sedentary lifestyle due to a lack of physical education at home and at school has many physical and psychological consequences on a child in the short and long term.


According to a Portuguese study, children with sedentary lifestyles have nine times poorer motor coordination than active children of the same age.[17] They also have worsened bone density, strength, and flexibility.[18] In the long term, they are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and drugs than their active peers.[19]

Sedentary behaviour is strongly associated with obesity,[20] and this imparts a great health risk. Obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, high LDL cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea, menstrual cycle abnormalities, bone and joint problems, increased cancer risk, and reduced balance.[21] They are also more likely to be obese adults.[22]


As exercise is known to improve well-being and reduce stress, physical inactivity is correlated with poor psychological health[23] such as an increase of major depression.[24] There is a link between obesity and psychiatric illness and the two feed on each other in a vicious cycle.

A lack of physical activity is associated with poorer concentration and academic performance, particularly in mathematics and reading.[25]

Finally, obesity induced from lack of exercise also contributes to a decrease in general mental health. Overweight children and teens are more likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, negative body image, teasing, and bullying.[26]

Lack of physical education in Canada[edit]


Daily exercise requirements[edit]

The Canadian Physical Activity guidelines for children ages 5 to 17 consist of at least 1 hour of daily physical activity. Their exercise should range in intensity from moderate (inducing light perspiration and harder breathing) to vigorous (inducing heavy perspiration and heavy breathing). Examples of moderate exercise include bike riding and playground activities, and examples of vigorous exercise include running and swimming. It is recommended that they engage in both vigorous activities and activities strengthening bone and muscles at least three times a week.[27]

Other physical health recommendations[edit]

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology also recommends that children ages 5 to 17 limit their sedentary activities, such as television and video games, sedentary transport, and extensive sitting. It is advised that children limit their recreational screen time to a maximum of 120 minutes a day.[28]

The 5-2-1-0 Rule[edit]

The Childhood Obesity Foundation, a Canadian initiative, has invented the 5-2-1-0 mnemonic to remember the national lifestyle recommendations. This consists of 5 servings or more of vegetables and fruit per day, no more than 2 hours of screen time a day, 1 hour of physical activity or more per day, and 0 sugary drinks.[29]

Current trends[edit]

The majority of Canadian children aged 5 to 17 years old (91%) do not meet the daily physical activity recommendations.[30] Although Canadian physical education programs are improving significantly, with 61-80% of schools offering a minimum of 150 minutes of physical education classes per week in 2016, and participation levels in organized sport are on the rise, Canadian school programs are ineffective in encouraging healthy habits.[31] In fact, most Canadian children (56%) lack physical literacy.[32] Consequently, they face many issues related to lifestyle. These include sedentary behaviours such as increased screen time averaging 176 minutes a day from TVs and video games to the detriment of active play. There is also the inevitable decrease in active transportation, more sleep deprivation, and a poor quality of diet.[33]

These lifestyle trends have caused youth obesity rates to nearly triple over the past 30 years. In 2013, this consisted of 28% of Canadian children ages 5–19 that were classified as overweight or obese.[34]

Government policies: Towards a Healthier Canada[edit]

The Pan-Canadian Public Health Network first decided to prioritize the issue of childhood obesity in September 2010 by creating the framework Curbing Childhood Obesity: An overview of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights. In this project, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health agreed to focus on three goals: increasing the predominance of nutritious food choices, addressing obesity at an early age, and creating better spaces for children that favour physical activity and healthy eating. This has allowed the action plan Towards a Healthier Canada to be created.[35]

Provincial physical education initiatives[edit]

Since the inception of Towards a Healthier Canada, many initiatives have been launched to meet the three goals, and they vary from province to province.[36] They are projects made in the name of a framework or jurisdictional approach/governmental department that are either targeted at schools, at a community, or in partnership with other organizations or companies.

Recommendations for Canadian physical education curriculum[edit]

The Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD) has recommended that Canadian schools and school boards take action through specific academic initiatives to ensuring that their physical education curriculum is effective at encouraging and instilling healthy exercise habits in young Canadians. CAHPERD has suggested that schools focus on checking the quality (adequate facilities, budget and research-verified techniques) and quantity (minimum 30 minutes a day) of a school’s physical education courses as well as the professional qualifications of the educators. The consultants should check that classes meet the needs of all students irrespective of race, sex, gender, and ability level. The courses should also encourage participation and skill development, with a healthy balance of competitive and noncompetitive activities. Moreover, it is of utmost importance that physical activity and physical education be encouraged by the teacher: they should never be used to punish a student (such as what is seen through the common practice of making children run if they misbehave). Outside of class hours, CAHPERD recommends that schools provide opportunities for intramural activities and involve parents in the fitness initiative.[37]

Lack of physical education in the United States[edit]

Nearly 10 million children and adolescents in the United States ages 6–19 are considered overweight because the lack of physical education in schools.[38] Children aged 6–11 have also more than doubled in rate of obesity over the last twenty years.[39] Current trends in United States to decrease obesity are before-school exercise programs with elementary aged children. One in particular consists of reaching 100 miles before the end of the school year. Each milestone of 25 miles the child will earn a check mark on a tee-shirt. They will then be rewarded at 100 miles with a trophy and an annoucement over the school loud speaker. Walking is supervised by teachers and done around school grounds or inside the school. This is a great way for a child to improve health, concentration, confidence and happiness.

See also[edit]

  • Physical education
  • Physical exercise
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Fitness professional
  • Sport psychology
  • Gym
  • ParticipACTION


  • ^ Shannon W. Weed (2005), The disappearance of physical education 
  • ^ Sallis, James F (2012). “Physical Education’s Role in Public Health: Steps Forward and Backward Over 20 Years and HOPE for the Future”. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 
  • ^ “WHO | Prevalence of insufficient physical activity”. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  • ^ Hallal, Pedro C; Andersen, Lars Bo; Bull, Fiona C; Guthold, Regina; Haskell, William; Ekelund, Ulf. “Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects”. The Lancet. 380 (9838): 247–257. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(12)60646-1. 
  • ^ “Lack of exercise, not diet, linked to rise in obesity, Stanford research shows”. News Center. Retrieved 2016-11-22. 
  • ^ Lee, I-Min; Shiroma, Eric J; Lobelo, Felipe; Puska, Pekka; Blair, Steven N; Katzmarzyk, Peter T. “Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy”. The Lancet. 380 (9838): 219–229. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(12)61031-9. 
  • ^ Ploughman, Michelle (2008-01-01). “Exercise is brain food: The effects of physical activity on cognitive function”. Developmental Neurorehabilitation. 11 (3): 236–240. doi:10.1080/17518420801997007. ISSN 1751-8423. PMID 18781504. 
  • ^ Rasberry, Catherine N.; Lee, Sarah M.; Robin, Leah; Laris, B.A.; Russell, Lisa A.; Coyle, Karin K.; Nihiser, Allison J. “The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: A systematic review of the literature”. Preventive Medicine. 52: S10–S20. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.01.027. 
  • ^ “Physical Education in Schools Update | International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Physical Education in Schools Update | International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Physical Education in Schools Update | International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Physical Education in Schools Update | International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Physical Education in Schools Update | International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ Baker, Al (2012-07-10). “Even as Obesity Concerns Rise, Physical Education Is Sidelined”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Physical Education Programs Stalled By State Loopholes: 2012 Shape Of The Nation Report”. 
  • ^ Lisa Wangsness; April Simpson (May 30, 2007), Lack of physical education weighs heavily on many, The Boston Globe 
  • ^ Lopes, Luís; Santos, Rute; Pereira, Beatriz; Lopes, Vítor Pires (2012-11-01). “Associations between sedentary behavior and motor coordination in children”. American Journal of Human Biology. 24 (6): 746–752. doi:10.1002/ajhb.22310. ISSN 1520-6300. 
  • ^ “Children and physical activity”. 
  • ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Health Canada and the Public health Agency of. “Children and physical activity”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Physical activity of Canadian children and youth: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Health Risks of Childhood Obesity – Bariatric and Metabolic Institute | UC San Diego Health”. UC Health – UC San Diego. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Obesity Prevention | Healthy Schools | CDC”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ Goodwin, Donna L (1996). “Cut-backs to physical education consulting services: consequences and concerns”. CAHPER Journal. 
  • ^ Win, Sithu; Parakh, Kapil; Eze-Nliam, Chete M.; Gottdiener, John S.; Kop, Willem J.; Ziegelstein, Roy C. (2011-03-15). “Depressive symptoms, physical inactivity and risk of cardiovascular mortality in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study”. Heart. 97 (6): 500–505. doi:10.1136/hrt.2010.209767. ISSN 1468-201X. PMC 3044493 . PMID 21339320. 
  • ^ Harold W. Kohl, I. I. I.; Cook, Heather D.; Environment, Committee on Physical Activity and Physical Education in the School; Board, Food and Nutrition; Medicine, Institute of (2013-10-30). Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance. National Academies Press (US). 
  • ^ “Obesity Prevention | Healthy Schools | CDC”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Guidelines”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Guidelines”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “About – Childhood Obesity Foundation”. Childhood Obesity Foundation. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Are Canadian Kids Too Tired to Move? | ParticipACTION”. ParticipACTION. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Are Canadian Kids Too Tired to Move? | ParticipACTION”. ParticipACTION. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Are Canadian Kids Too Tired to Move? | ParticipACTION”. ParticipACTION. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Are Canadian Kids Too Tired to Move? | ParticipACTION”. ParticipACTION. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “About – Childhood Obesity Foundation”. Childhood Obesity Foundation. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Public Health Agency of. “Curbing Childhood Obesity: An Overview of the FPT Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights – Public Health Agency of Canada”. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ “Towards a Healthier Canada : Compilation of Initiatives”. 
  • ^ “Making the Case for Physical Education in Canada: A Presentation Kit for Leaders | PHE Canada”. 2010-07-23. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  • ^ Physical Education in Schools 
  • ^ Leslie Haub (2007), Childhood obesity and the lack of physical education programs 
  • External links[edit]

    • Promoting Physical Activity and Healthy Living (video) by the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network
    • Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School (video) by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Health and Medicine Division
    • ParticipACTION