The Real Reason Gym Class Is Terrible

The Real Reason Gym Class Is Terrible


Gym class. It’s an easy punch line. P.E. is supposed to encourage health and fitness from an early age. But for many kids, it’s a terrible experience. And it may be more detrimental than we thought. P.E. became a standard of requirement right after the civil war. It was recognized after the war that we really didn’t have enough kids fit to fight in combat. and since then it’s been pretty standard
part of the school experience. Today PE is viewed as a method for addressing an
increase in childhood obesity rates There’s just a very understandable need
for young people to have as much physical activity as they do have time
at their desks just allowing them to get out the jitters and being able to sit
and concentrate after a long period. But consider the case of Texas Fitness Now, a
37 million dollar physical fitness program implemented in 2007. According to
a recent study mandatory gym class doesn’t reduce obesity or add value to
middle school curriculums. So this program provided low-income middle
schools with money for fitness equipment under the condition that students attend
PE class for at least 30 minutes per day. And it found that the PE requirement was
actually counterproductive it not only has a negligible impact on fitness and
academic achievement but it can also really take a hit on kids discipline
they were more likely to be truant and more likely to act out and the theory
about why that was is that kids were getting bullied. The locker room is an
area which is mostly unsupervised by middle school coaches and teachers and
by providing students this new arena to meet every single day it could be that
students are just bullying each other more. And there was a 7% increase in the
proportion of students causing a disruption. All coupled with the
complicating factor of puberty. Kids are feeling ashamed of their weight
or ashamed of their inability to run fast. They’re also ashamed of their sweat their appearance and this is
particularly true in middle school when kids are especially self-conscious. So PE
may be causing more problems than it is solving and yet it’s still a requirement
for public schools in 47 states. But is it all bad? If PE is done well it can
have a really pronounced effect on kids’ fitness. Schools could rethink the entire program. The design of a PE class really really
matters. My ideal PE program would be a mix of recess-type opportunities, hiking,
yoga, activities that really just create this organic opportunity to be
physically active. This might do better at creating a healthy relationship with exercise that will last a lifetime. Teachers can play a role in this too. Really remembering that they need to be supportive. That they need to ensure that
bullying isn’t happening to ensure that kids are enjoying
themselves. Just to ask kids, “What do you want to do?” Hey I’m Alia Wong. I’m a
staff writer at the Atlantic if you want to see more videos like this please
subscribe to our YouTube channel.

100 thoughts on “The Real Reason Gym Class Is Terrible

  1. Why was it easier to stay skinny in the 80s? Watch the previous episode of the Idea File to find out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObAWB5VGbBo&list=PLDamP-pfOskO7zQRs2x7CnPHeiZSk43Nj&

  2. I just wish they kept recess instead of cutting people off from it after elementary school. After that I never really enjoyed physical activity because they just keep shoving competitive sports down our throats day in and day out. I'm a very UNCOMPETITIVE person, it's just my temperament, so it made PE classes incredibly boring to be playing sports all the time. Why can't we have more variety of activities? Dance (NOT just square dancing), hiking, weight-lifting, sky's the limit.

  3. I struggled with PhysEd. I even wrote my own doctor's notes to get out of it through half my middle school years and all of my high school years. Completely unproductive, shoved in with total assholes in team sports that did nothing, no structure, no regularity, largely an exercise in keeping students occupied with instructors that thought everything coming out of a student's mouth was bullshit. As soon as I got away from the evil, little assholes who were my so-called peers? I took up running, biking and weight training, dropped over a hundred pounds and did great. I can attest to the fact that PhysEd causes more problems than it solves.

  4. Hey, here's a question. Why are your commentators exclusively female for this topic? Also I don't think 30 min of excercise a day is enough

  5. Is this part of Atlantics anti-healthy lifestyle agenda? They previously said it wasn't poor diet that was making people obese, now it's exercise bad.

    Like others said its about poor diet – kids should be taught about the importance of fruit and veg (a wholefood diet).

  6. I fuckin hated PE. They would make you run 1 and then 5 km in a certain time period among with other normatives and if you couldn't do that you're not passing the subject. I quit trying after I blacked out one day and had to find other way to pass this damned PE
    I studied a lot of complicated subjests in uni but PE was the absolute horseshit to pass

  7. Sad, uneven reporting. Obvious writers know little about the subject matter. Videos are all about SPORT, not physical education.

  8. Hear hear! PE was the most useless class were unfit teens get bullied by jocks and coaches and so hate all forms of exercise the rest of their lives.

  9. If you really want to have a class dedicated to "physical education" you gotta do more than just throw some equipment and funding at schools. Also, I think the kids that need P.E. class the most can't simply be asked "what do you want to do?" because the answer is going to be "go home" for the majority of them (that would've been my answer too in middle/highschool). You need smart coaches and other fitness trainers to come together and come up with plans, but you HAVE to separate them. If an obese kid is in the same P.E. class as the captain of the football team, you're doing it wrong.

  10. I hated PE classes, but actually like going to the gym. I guess I like the idea of doing what I want on my own terms. Not having to play a game with annoying and competitive kids.

  11. As a nation, we are increasingly overweight, sedentary, and depressed. How does anyone think it's actually better for our kids to have fewer opportunities to run around, play, get their heart-rate up, and be outside each day?

  12. This is interesting because I remember PE class not being fun and feeling like at least a third of us not wanting to participate. I do think it shaped my idea of physical fitness in a negative way because it was almost always a competitive thing. Now I'm not overweight and never have been, but that's thanks to my metabolism. I eat a lot of crap everyday. But I am starting to regret having such a negative framework for fitness because I want to do a physical job that requires I build strength. Going to the gym requires so much more motivation because of those negative feelings. I think if PE were more collaborative or independent instead of competitive maybe kids would learn to enjoy their bodies and keep that fitness up later in life.

  13. I was MORTIFIED of PE. I used to "forget" my uniform every time. But if the teacher would've told us (there was a group of us) to go for a stroll in the school grounds, I would've been down for that.

  14. I had p.e. teachers who were judgmental bullies. One gave me a poor grade for "posture" because there was space between my back and the wall at waist level. That was bone structure, not "posture". Another made me run a 50 yard dash the day I returned from being sick with the flu, on threat of failing the entire term, and caused me to collapse and break my arm, so I had to drop band. This same teacher made us do a "self improvement" project relating to personal care, like we were not good enough already.

  15. I was in P.E. in the 90's and I remember there being a focus on putting kids on the spot. How fast can you run? Can you hit a softball that's pitched to you? How much can you bench press? It was all about performance metrics.

  16. When you have a class with 60+ kids per teacher, kinda hard to teach nutrition. PE is the place schools dump kids so that the classrooms are leveled out.
    Also, the issue is society as a whole. Access to junk and crap is easier than healthy food. Also, It costs more. Go to any low income area and you will find liq stores and fast food joints selling out of fucking chicken sandwiches dripping with hot colest.

  17. In college I took some of my courses online, and because I had a long commute, I took PE online as well. It was a mix of book study, online modules, forum conversations, performing different exercises from the book each week, and regular cardio. It allowed for people to excel in their strongest areas. There was a fitness test at the beginning and end, and it was scheduled with a bunch of people, but you could also schedule privately if you could go in at a time when staff was available. There's no reason kids couldn't do something like this modified for younger people, whether online or in the school. It allows for individualization without a ton of work on the teacher's part. My course had a ton of options in each category, and had modified exercises for people with restrictions. Even in PE at my elementary school, kids sometimes get to choose from several activities and the world doesn't end. Kids aren't saying "I'm gonna do nothing" or whatever. They like moving around. When they have several activities to choose from, they can work to their strengths, and everyone does better. Everyone.

    Our current, fantastic PE teacher teaches the kids recess games during PE so they can play them independently at recess. It's wonderful.

    The point is to teach kids to enjoy exercise so they'll keep doing it later and not be expensive to society. We can philosophize about why PE is important but the reason governments require it is they want to decrease lifestyle-related disease. The current system doesn't do that for most people.

  18. I’m in university now and I exercise 3 hours per week at high intensity. I do this because I get to CHOOSE what I do (sitting bike, normally, or treadmill) instead of high school, where I was just moving around the gym trying not to get hit by frisbees. I hated team sports, but that was the only option, and it made me hate exercising. Now I realize that I really like exercising, I just don’t like having to be constantly vigilant about projectiles hitting me.

  19. This video here is the natural result of our inability as Americans to accept that people have different interests. I suppose you could make it optional, and give schools an excuse to get rid of it. The tone of this video appears neutral at the end, but it certainly isn't when you look at the accompanying reporting that went along with this video.

    I am a nerd and mildly autistic, I was never good at sports, I was a natural target for bullying though I never experienced too much of it. Yet, I loved competitive sports. P.E. class was the highlight of my day (along with History class, because again, I'm an unrepentant nerd).

    This isn't about making kids happier. In seeking to abolish gym classes, you are trying to make kids who like gym class unhappy as revenge for your own unhappy school experiences. It is absolutely contemptible.

  20. In late elementary school, there was this one day when we were supposed to try to serve a volleyball over a net. We got into one big line, and everyone would take as many tries as necessary to do the technique as taught and get the ball over the net using that technique. More than half of gym class was spent with me trying to get it right (which I never did, btw). Lots of kids didn't get to go. Everyone watching me and trying to cheer me on didn't make it better; it made it worse. The teachers didn't help each kid; they sat on the sidelines and just yelled shit. While that one day sticks out, most of the rest of PE was kicking rocks around outside, getting hit in the face with basketballs inside, and being bullied by the other girls in the locker room. I was lucky that my parents could afford karate class most of my childhood that gave me a positive way to exercise. I feel bad for kids who didn't.

  21. When I was in elementary school, I’ve had really hated being in the mainstreamed P.E. class because I was the only kid who had cerebral palsy which limits my mobility and the same thing applied to middle school. Because my mobility needs are different than students who don’t have cerebral palsy or other disabilities, I’ve really felt so isolated from my able-bodied peers. Though once I got into high school, they didn’t have a required gym class because it wasn’t how they were set up, curriculum wise.

  22. This was better than I expected, well thought out and presented, open, and with positive takes at the end. Kudos.
    I was a kid in 70s Ontario- our system was influenced by the American one with some British roots, both of which had tried to stress PE in some form since the 1870s. Our gym classes were similar to what I have heard of the US, though they had phased out showers for us.
    I hated gym too, for some of these reasons. Uncomfortable with public physicality, uncomfortable with PE clothing, sweating, you name it. I would have hated showers. I am a little surprised at this late date to learn that these might have been common among kids. I had been thinking I was just among the more neurotic kids about my appearance and perspiration. Or perhaps I was and these traits are just more common now than they were 40 years ago. I have contemplated the idea that Gen X socialization was just more attuned to personal privacy than the boomers had been raised, more willing to indulge rather than train kids out of these traits, and that this trend had continue into further generations.
    I am torn about it- I am not sure that less indulgence would not have conditioned me to be a tad more robust, and short circuited a confidence building process that instead took 20 more years. Or maybe it would have been worse. I suspect kids have gone both ways, just as more modern takes benefit some and harm others.
    The bullying part surprised me. That was one thing that was at a low level when I was a kid, but seems to have gotten worse even in Canada. Or maybe it was always bad in American schools compared to ours, I can't say. I got hassled by a couple of the meaner girls and maybe one boy [I'm male, FTR, yet oddly was only really hassled for my excess weight by girls], but none of it really had much impact on me.
    Your proposed solutions strike me as interesting and positive. There may be a place for the trad gym class, since it really can open up the world of calisthenics and similar useful exercises, climbing, and so on, in a safe environment. Starting climbing on actual rocks would be problematic. Ropes and bars first. Running indoors in winter, and so on. Lost of track and field can be started or practiced. But getting outdoors when possible is better. More variety of activities is better. SOme room for freeform exercise is better- I hated both gym class and team sports but was content to run around and climb individually as a kid. I needed exposure to the realm of team sports and of structured exercise, they are better to learn for real workouts and real competition, but they can't be everything if every kid is to find a place.

  23. I am really torn on the bullying issue. My experience in 70s-80s Canada [born 1970, middle school 1981-4] was positive. Some middle school harassment, mainly from girls about my weight, per below, a little bit of ethno-religious abuse from a boy with whom I otherwise got along, though only after a couple of punches thrown my way, a little bit more of the same from another less cheerful boy who got a bit of his own back from a third party, and so on. One case I dimly recall in which I made for the streetcar stop quickly after school to avoid a possible threat.
    Ultimately never amounted to much. I always assumed many more urban schools were worse, and that American schools [stereotype warning] were much scarier than Canadian ones. If TV was any guide.
    So if the bullying were like that now, I'd say meh. That's all fine. My impression is that for reasons I can't fathom, it is far worse.

  24. did the study control for dietary options at the school? if this is low income, hell it's hard to eat healthy without money so I can see it showing similar results given what we know about healthy options in low income communities. also – 30 minutes after loading the kids up on chips and whatever other bogus lunch you're feeding them is guaranteed to see those results

  25. I was born in 80. I loved PE, and i wasn’t even athletic. All of our gym teachers were crazy vietnam vets who cursed and yelled at us all the time. A lot of good character building

  26. In elementary school, it was all about playing X sport perfectly and no exceptions. I got whiplash, hairline fractures, smashed my head being told to practice cheerleading moves with no spotting… You get the picture?

    I get to high school and we're allowed to play leisurely games of whatever we have the time/items for. Usually it's floor hockey because that's the only thing all of us agree on. We're graded on participating in the morning stretch and that's it. We're told to socialize, be friendly, take a walk… With warm weather, we get a rock climbing wall set up for us, team building activities, trust falls, and other activities for all sorts of abilities so we can all enjoy ourselves.

    It made a big difference.

  27. for me, it was always the competitive good at sports kids vs the geeky non athletic kids. If you sucked at sports, you were bullied and harassed. Life long fitness, whatever you enjoy, needs to be promoted over fast you run the mile.

  28. my daughter loves P.E., she loves sports and getting exercise. she recently hurt her finger and has not been allowed to participate in P.e while she heals and it's been a big disappointment. not all kids love P.e. sure, but even so i think the exercise is very important to have, even if it is not the sole answer for weight issues. Lot's of studies talk about how beneficial exercise is. I agree with others in the comments that this is a weird video.

  29. You know what happened in Chinese schools? PE teachers force students to run 400m in 75s or they will be punished. They also use basketball to hit your head if you perform bad in class. But we students or teachers seldom care about that because that's NORMAL.

  30. I hated PE. First of all, I walked literally two miles each way back and forth which I enjoyed to get to and fro from school. Both Jr H and High. The I walked four flights up to have PE. The lockers were disgusting and stunk. I hated PE. I could not wait to get out of H.S. It was bully time for many kids. Some kids had disgusting hygiene. Girls and their tampon pads etc and there were NO SHOWERS, Then you had to stink the entire rest of the day as my PE was the first thing in the AM for my entire time in Jr. H. and H.S.

    So I homeschooled my kids with no sports they were not interest no religion, 4 H. Art I hired tutors for math and english whenneeded. We jointed four H because we had a farmette and raised fluffy cute creatures. I am not nor was antisocial. I hated the religious bull crap and made sure my husband had been a science teach so he kicked in with projects.
    Except for two children, they all went on to have professions because they wanted them not because I wanted them to have a profession. I got to know my children so well. 8 kids. We were in the backwoods of Pa and it was not easy to stay away from idiotic religious people. I wanted nothing to do with it.
    I get very upset when people crinkle their noses at me when I say I homed schooled our kids. They think I force fed them isolation and religion. No We went on trips. When they wanted to they went to school later when they could handle the bullying and nonsense.
    My thing was no gym due to head injuries no boy scouts because I knew they were child abusing no segregation between males and females. PE stinks and I am glad secular schools exists.We wanted the kids to progress on their terms not on ours. It was hard work. It paid off they had a good childhood. That is what they say.You got to be humble when it comes to raising kids. One thing with a hubby who had so many head injury patients, I was not going to risk contact sports.

  31. The coaches are absolutely unsupportive/unapproachable and the students are toxic at my school. I’ve been one of their targets for about a couple weeks now. Any advice?

  32. Nah I be playing cod mobile and Minecraft but my coach took my cellphone away so I decided to interrupt him 24/7 while he was talking

  33. I hate PE with all my being. My Asthma and Eczema, combined with the heat, is frickin miserable. I also have back problems at 13 due to prolonged stretching. I will forever hate PE.

  34. This video didn't seem as researched as other Atlantic videos, just one program that failed and a person talking about their random ideas on what they think PE should be…

  35. I feel awful after every PE class, mostly mentally. I don't play a sport like 3/4 of the kids in my school do, so in PE I just end up feeling so much worse than when I began. Another thing is that, in my school, I swear we do nothing. We basically mostly play a glorified game of catch most days. I get so much more exercise from my dance classes than I ever have from a PE class. That was my mini rant….thank you if you made it this far.

  36. Ever since the start of 4th grade, I would get hurt in some way during P.E. class. We had it once a week in 4th and 5th grade and in 6th and 7th it was every other day. I would be ready for pain walking in during P.E. Some of the ways that I got hurt was trying to jump rope, running too fast and tripping, getting hit by a basketball, failing to throw a basketball and falling, and punching my leg because I got mad. And that was just in 4th grade. I only remember having fun in P.E. once and that was one day in 6th grade we had those scooters that we all know and love and some jump ropes. Me and 2 other friends found we could tie the jump rope to the handle on the scooter to go really fast. We took turns on it and one time it went into the bleachers turned upwards against the wall and I got hurt. It wasn't nearly as bad as anything else from 4th grade but I laughed and the teacher ended our fun day. The teacher from 4th grade didn't care that I felt that I couldn't do anything right with jump roping and basketball but now that I'm having fun, now that's an Avengers level threat.

  37. My issue is that from the fall and the spring I'm a student athlete and still do a sport in the winter but it's not a school sport but I am still forced to participate in PE, unlike other schools which allow students to make PE optional for student athletes. Forcing student athletes to show up for a fitness class doesnt promote stopping obesity, it just causes us to be more tired and work more then we already do, and for me its swiming 6 times a week with morning practice 3 times a week. Forcing me to do more exercise when I'm tired isn't great but I have to exercise because if I don't, I don't get a good participation grade which lowers my avaverage.

  38. At My School In My Country We Were Allowed To Play Whatever We Want Also To Get Creative with the equipment (As Long As It's Safe Of Course)

  39. I hate it because I don't like lacrosse, soccer, football, volleyball. Yeah maybe I'm not a good example. I also find the locker room akward. And if you think I can move fast if I'm not on a bike or in the water you'd be wrong. He he he.

  40. I just have a problem of crying when I’m nervous or embarrassed or when the team depends on me ;-; I don’t like ppl randomly cheering for me cause it makes me feel really pressured 😭

  41. I got a zero on a grade for talking to my friends when we were out and no one would give the ball to us and we were terrible at playing, they consider this “encouraging you to try your hardest.” 😒

  42. Bro, i have been scared mentally and physically for the rest of my life because of PE 7th grade to today i still feel pain in the tooth…
    I fell and my tooth hit the gym floor it broke and now I'm in pain till i get 2000 dollars to get a root canal.

  43. I love PE because you don't have to sit down and learn all day and you can just play sports and have fun. Also in my school they don't have recess in high school.

  44. At my school, we get to chose what sport we do in yr 10 and 11 (grade 9&10) we pretty much only get graded at the start of yr 7 to see what group we’re in, after that it’s down to our overall performance

  45. Instead of making us run laps they should build playgrounds with Tons of obstacles- essentially recess. I loved recess cause I could play, but I hate PE cause we are graded according to our ability playing a sport I dont know/like to play.

  46. PE at my school is actually great good. They have separate goals for separate levels of fitness, based off the pacer test. The lower you score, the more you need because the goal is to get us to score higher and get more fit. The PE teachers offices are in the boys and girls locker room (the girl coaches in the girls and the guy coaches in the boys) and it helps prevent bullying.

  47. At our school we have to stay in the same class
    There is no different class for different subject thing so we are all the same kids threw out
    Now the school decided to give us 5 minutes between every class
    Oh god that was a mistake
    Kids would go fuckin crazy
    Like run or die kind of crazy

  48. A big reason why i go to the gym and play waterpolo (im 14) is because i want to do better in gym class, which has worked out so far.

  49. idk bout american kids, but here in singapore, i guess its due to the fact that we wear uniforms. we have formal uniforms and pe attire that we wear to school for the day if we do have pe class, this eliminates the need for a locker/changing room? and also our moe has a structure to the pe classes conducted. we learn to play certain sports and it gets fun when we are split into groups and compete against one another. this really opened a new perspective for me as generally pe class in singapore is viewed as “ fun time “ as we sit in class all day and when it’s time for pe its as though we get to play for a bit.

  50. in eleementary school, the kids need structured and unstructured playtime or else they're going to explode at their desks all day. in middle and high school, it might serve less of a function. still, there are good and bad PE teachers I believe

  51. i actually go to a school where there's alot of obese students and even the staff!! but gym class doesn't even work because of school lunch (im lucky i don't even the school lunch or even breakfast)

  52. the fact that she mentions making it more like recess/breaks instead of regimented lessons/activities is great, bc so many people at my old school hated playing super competitive team sports or doing the exact same thing (like swim strokes/exercise bikes or machines in the weights room etc) and would rather have played dodgeball or just had some climbing equipment/hiked or biked. i find it super irritating that as soon as you leave year 6 (age 11) theres no more equipment in the schoolyard beyond benches and bins, and then we're told of for sitting around on our phones 🙁 what else is there to do?

  53. Middle school was absolutely terrible. Our or teacher wouldn’t understand that some kids were slower and would start yelling at them and be like those kids i front are so much faster and so on.. they also would like idk shame u? It’s hard to explain but they would like yell really rude words if u were in the far back like I remember this time the coach was yelling hurry up slowpoke! It was a girl who just came to America , got the pe teacher fired for harassment, turned out sometimes he would make kids stay back after class and would refuse to give them a late pass too,.high school is so much better

  54. Standard Physical Education in America is not actual physical education. So the practice is incorrect not the idea. Stop providing unhealthy snacks in schools.

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