Emphasizing Fitness Objectives in Secondary Physical Education

By Ward, Barrymore; Everhart, Brett et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, January 1998 | Go to article overview

Emphasizing Fitness Objectives in Secondary Physical Education


Ward, Barrymore, Everhart, Brett, Dunaway, Donna, Fisher, Stephen, Coates, Todd, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Today's adults were yesterday's students taking physical education and learning how to be fit. If that is true, how do we explain that one in two American adults does not participate in regular vigorous physical activity, while one in four pursues no vigorous leisure activity (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1996). Why are more than 40 percent of Americans above 40 years of age overweight, with males more so than females (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1996)? There is ample evidence that physical activity levels decrease during the teen years (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1996). Although no evidence attributes factors such as television, computers, and video games to the decline in activity, it appears that with more advanced technology within our society, physical activity levels decrease among our youth. This is apparent even with the past recommendation to engage in cardiovascular exercise at or above target zone for 20 minutes, three days per week. That recommendation has recently been altered by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). There is a difference in the quality and quantity of exercise needed for obtaining health-related benefits compared to sport fitness benefits. The ACSM now promotes the health benefits of longer periods of exercise at lower intensities, emphasizing a more moderately sustained activity on a daily basis, totaling at least 30 minutes combined activity durations (ACSM, 1995; Corbin & Pangrazi, 1996; Sallis & Patrick, 1994).

As physical education professionals, we recognize that the school-age years are essential times for promoting regular, vigorous physical activity. We can all point to yearly program objectives and highlight the ones related to the promotion of health and well-being through sustained physical effort. Additionally, many of us embrace philosophically the idea that our physical education classes represent the ideal forum for the provision of appropriate levels of physical activity. However, in physical education classes, it is questionable whether the activities are consistently allowing students to elevate and maintain heart rate levels to the target zone, whether the activity is moderate or rigorous (Li & Dunham, 1992; McKenzie & Sallis, 1996). Current physical educators need to make an impact on future adult populations; therefore, physical education programs must emphasize fitness in a way that motivates students to perform fitness-based activities. At the very least, heart rate levels must be maintained at target zones as much as possible during physical education activities. However, since the majority of physical education programs in the public schools are based on sport instruction, it is necessary to develop methods of teaching sport while emphasizing fitness development, particularly cardiovascular endurance. Not enough time is available in traditional physical education schedules to meet all of the possible objectives (McKenzie & Sallis, 1996). In the traditional 50-minute classes, it is possible that by integrating objectives, teachers may be able to achieve fitness objectives along with other program objectives. One model for incorporating fitness emphases during physical education lessons is based on a five-day-per-week program (Strand & Reeder, 1996). During the first of the week, after the pre-lesson fitness activity, skill development is emphasized more than game play. As the week progresses, more time is given to game play and less to skill development, thus increasing student heart rate elevation during the lessons. By Friday, the fitness activity is completed and during the rest of the lesson game playing occurs.

Another alternative would be to attempt to increase fitness levels while engaged in sport instruction. While some fitness needs transcend all sport skills, others are somewhat sport-skill specific. For example, all sports require muscular strength.

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