Academic journal article Physical Educator

The Relationship between Secondary School Physical Education and Postsecondary Physical Activity

Academic journal article Physical Educator

The Relationship between Secondary School Physical Education and Postsecondary Physical Activity

Article excerpt

Only a small percentage of Canadian adults attain the physical activity (PA) recommendations of 150 min/week of moderate to vigorous activity (Colley et al., 2011a). Activity levels are equally poor for Canadian youth (Colley et al., 2011b) and youth in other countries (e.g., Hallal et al., 2012). Physical education (PE) is one way in which PA may be enhanced for youth (e.g., Sallis & McKenzie, 1991; Sallis et al., 2012). Discussions pertaining to the effects of PE have extended from the immediate benefit for students to the longer term adult implications, specifically the notion of "lifelong activity participation" (e.g., Kirk, 2005; Penney & Jess, 2004; Sallis & McKenzie, 1991; Sallis et al., 2012). In considering the goal of ". . . a lifetime of physical activity," Sallis et al. (2012) suggested that "this goal . . . is difficult to evaluate and has limited evidence to support its validity (Trudeau, Laurencelle, Tremblay, Rajic, & Shephard, 1999)" (p. 126).

The "limited evidence" used by Sallis et al. (2012) is the well-known Trois-Rivieres study, which showed that only women who had PE for 5 hr/week during elementary school were more physically active as adults versus a control group (Trudeau, Laurencelle, Tremblay, Rajic, 6 Shephard, 1999). Additional evidence linking PE specifically to adult PA can be garnered from research with emerging adults. Arnett (2000, 2005, 2006, 2007) proposed the term emerging adulthood to describe the period of life that postsecondary students in developed countries experience. This life stage falls between adolescence and adulthood and ends when individuals begin to take on adult roles such as marriage, parenthood, or a stable career (Arnett, 2000). For PA levels across the life span, Telama's (2009) review offers evidence for PA tracking.

During transition times, such as entry into postsecondary education, PA levels are affected (Allender, Hutchinson, & Foster, 2008; Kimball, Jenkins, & Wallhead, 2009). In a sample of first year university students, Bray and Born (2004) assessed the level of vigorous PA from the end of high school compared to the beginning of university. They found that students could be classified as "continuously active" from high school to university (33.1%), "continuously insufficiently active" (22.8%) during this time, with the remaining either increasing or decreasing activity from the end of high school to the start of university (p. 184). Butler, Black, Blue, and Gretebeck (2004) followed a group of freshman female students from their entry into college until 5 months later and found that total PA, work activities, and sport activities decreased.

In addition to observing reductions in certain types of PA from the mid-teens until the late 20s, Zick, Smith, Brown, Fan, and Kowaleski-Jones (2007) identified being "in school" as a factor affecting activity levels (differently) for males and females, although the interaction with age was not reported (thus not indicating if school meant secondary school or postsecondary schooling). More recently, Kwan, Cairney, Faulkner, and Pullenayegum (2012) followed a nationally representative sample of Canadian adolescents for 12 years (starting from ages 12 to 15) and observed a decline in PA during that period. Distinguishing the sample by gender and whether participants had undertaken postsecondary education, they found that the decrease in PA was most noticeable for men entering postsecondary education (Kwan et al., 2012).

Sallis and McKenzie cited evidence from the mid-1980s and identified declines in activity as an issue in 1991, following with a suggestion that "high school and college physical educators may have the best opportunity to prepare students to maintain patterns of regular physical activity" (p. 134). In addition, researchers have examined the link between secondary school PE and PA levels among postsecondary students. When Texas college students were surveyed, those who had not taken PE in high school (compared to those who did) were more active as college students (Everhart et al. …

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