According to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the CDC recommends all elementary schools provide 30 minutes of physical education per day for students. The NCBI elaborates:
Although many states (n = 38, 78 %) and school districts in the USA have implemented minimum PE requirements, even among those schools that have (by virtue of ‘codified laws’) specific time requirements for PE tend not to meet the CDC guidelines.
Guidelines for physical exercise and education are good, but clearly guidelines alone do not address the core issue of childhood obesity. Furthermore, P.E. classes end up creating disdain for exercise in young kids, instead of familiarizing them with it. As Slate's Jessica Olien puts it:
Calling the class “physical education” was some sort of sick joke. The lesson I was learning about my physical body was that it was useless, inferior, and quite possibly infected with a cootie-like virus. We should have been learning about how complicated and capable our bodies were and how to make them healthier. Instead we were playing dodgeball.
Evidence that exercise may also improve cognitive development and academic performance provides yet another reason to promote physical activity for students. More specifically, it argues the need for quality physical education in schools because it allows all students to engage in regular physical activity.
Schools need physical education in order to ensure all children get the recommended amount of exercise. According to the CDC, nearly one in five young people from the ages of 6 to 19 suffers from obesity. These children are more likely to develop chronic diseases later on in life, making physical education in schools of vital importance to public health at large.
According to a paper analyzing new data from Texas' Fitness Now program, a daily mandate for exercise had no positive outcome on kids' health or education. Fitness Now aimed to improve fitness, academics, and behavior in middle schoolers through a daily P.E. class. The program cost $37 million.
[Researchers] found that the program, which ran from 2007 to 2011, actually had detrimental effects, correlating with an uptick in discipline and absence rates.
Kids are more likely to be bullied in P.E. classes, as forced athletic activities separate the coordinated from the clumsy, creating an age-old pecking order in the gym. Clearly, kids would rather skip school altogether than suffer through one more P.E. class.
...might involve healthy-living and nutrition classes, parent education, and frequent opportunities for unstructured play—all on top of more conventional “gym class.”
As long as physical education classes take a holistic approach to health, nutrition, and fitness, the classes are achieving their purpose. P.E. does much more than just put kids on a track and note their mile time; it helps teach teamwork, positivity, and endurance. As a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist, Rachel Wise, writes for her site, Education and Behavior:
Physical education teaches the students to improve the quality of their life. Focusing only on school work can make their life boring and stagnant which in turn can cause depression and failure. Such activities and exercises boost their stamina which can make them fall in love with their intelligence and abilities.