Objective of the Report:
While several claims regarding the decline in physical education exposure among U.S. students have been made, few large-scale studies have examined such changes. As such, it remains unclear to what extent these changes have occurred. Further, it is unknown whether changes in physical education exposure, if any, are uniform across grade and student demographics.
At the request of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAPA) formed a committee to review the available evidence regarding secular changes in exposure to school-based physical education among U.S. students. The Secular Changes in Physical Education Exposure Ad Hoc Committee was comprised of experts in physical activity and physical education from academic institutions as well as government and private organizations with a vested interested in school-based physical education. The Committee was charged with the tasks of:
- identifying the best existing surveys or studies with measures of physical education exposure (e.g., amount of time students spend in physical education class),
- identifying and developing measures from these existing surveys or studies to assess physical education exposure over time, and
- drawing conclusions based on the best available evidence.
The findings of the committee are presented in the Secular Changes in Physical Education Attendance Among U.S. High School Students. The primary goal of the report was to better understand physical education exposure over time to inform national recommendations and strategies for physical education.
- One-half of US high school students do not attend physical education classes—which is consistent over the 22-year period studied.
- Daily physical education attendance dropped 16.2% in four years (from 41.6% in 1991 to 25.4% in 1995)—attendance rates have stabilized since then.
- Attendance in physical education classes decreases steadily as a student moves from 9th to 12th grade.
- Consistently, more boys than girls reported attending physical education over the 22-year period studied.
The report concludes that policies and programs should be adopted that prioritize physical education in order to maximize its benefits. The US National Physical Activity Plan provides strategies and tactics that can increase participation in school-based physical education programs.
Read the full report here: Secular Trends in Physical Education Attendence Among High School Students