The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Quality Physical Education

By Siegel, Donald | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, October 2005 | Go to article overview

The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Quality Physical Education


Siegel, Donald, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


What Was the Question?

The short- and long-term effects of quality physical education programs have been a subject of considerable debate by educational administrators and state legislators during the past decade. While physical educators have repeatedly demonstrated the importance of daily moderate and vigorous physical activity on the immediate health and wellbeing of their students, the effects of such involvement on the academic achievement or the future lifestyles of participants remains open to question.

What Was Done?

A recent retrospective study by Shephard and Trudeau (2005) examined how a group of 546 Canadian primary school students (grades 1-6), who were given five hours per week of professionally administered physical education, fared on an aggregate of physiological, anthropometric, and psychomotor variables, when compared to a control group that received only minimal physical education from their homeroom teachers. The professionally supervised physical education program was designed to "keep all students moving vigorously." The frequency, duration, intensity, and type of activity were recorded in lesson plans and maintained in detailed records. The effects of participation on student heart rates, aerobic fitness, muscle strength, and physical performance were also documented and reported in previous papers. Twenty-five years later, when the subjects were between the ages of 30 and 35, they were evaluated on their comparative attitudes toward physical activity, lifestyles, and fitness levels.

What Was Found?

Results revealed that the subjects who participated in the professionally administered physical education programs had greater peak oxygen intake and greater strength than their counterparts in the control group in the second- through fifth-grade range, and that they performed better on 25 of 36 of the tests contained in the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (CAHPER) physical performance assessment. Also noteworthy was the finding that although the experimental subjects had a 14 percent reduction in their academic class time because of physical education programming, they did better than the control group (grades 2-6), on average, in math and English language classes. The authors noted, however, that the intervention had no noticeable affect on the students' health or attendance.

The 25-year follow-up showed a number of positive effects of participation in the experimental group, including the following: (1) a more favorable impression of physical education, (2) a more positive attitude toward physical activity accompanied by a greater intent to engage in physical activity, (3) a greater propensity to rate their general health as very good or excellent, and (4) a greater likelihood to participate in activity three or more times a week. …

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