Physical Education Class

The History of Physical Education in the United States

Physical education history traces back to ancient Greece, but it exists all over the world today. Starting from a young age, children need to engage in regular physical activity to develop their minds and bodies. In the United States, P.E. is a crucial component of early childhood education, laying the foundation for a healthy lifestyle into adulthood.

Introduction to Physical Education

Physical education benefits a growing individual’s mind and body. Increasing physical activity allows students to focus more in school, prevents injury and disease, improves their self-esteem, and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, among other mental health benefits.

Even if they do not have daily P.E. class, students still benefit from learning about their body and ways to move. From there, they can nurture personal interests in different forms of activity, such as competitive sports, running, yoga, dance, or any other exercise type that they can commit to regularly.

The Evolution of Physical Education

In 386 B.C., P.E. began in ancient Greece. Plato is the one who invented physical education, hosting classes at his school titled Akademia. He understood the importance of teaching children about physical fitness, and students began learning it at age seven. Plato was a skilled wrestler, and he believed that education and physical activity combined helped one attain perfection.

Physical training helped prepare students for careers as warriors or athletes. Common sports included wrestling, boxing, and chariot races. Physical education classes helped progress Greek society, and eventually, word of them spread throughout the world.

P.E. for the American Soldier

It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that physical education started in the United States. Similar to Athens education, P.E. trained and educated soldiers for battle. After the American Civil War, schools enacted laws necessitating physical education programs in public schools to prepare future generations for war.

Nonetheless, schools eventually used these classes to take health seriously and offered more attention to physical health and development. World War I showed that ⅓ of military recruits were physically unfit for combat. The government then passed legislation to improve the quality of these courses.

Committing to America’s Children

By World War II, physical education became common for men and women to cultivate their physiques for combat and manual labor. Since the military draft rejected some men from childhood malnutrition, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the National School Lunch Program to improve children’s nutrition.

Soon after, a national fear arose concerning the rapid weight gain of American children. President John F. Kennedy became an advocate for physical education and…  CLICK HERE to purchase the rest of this article for only $1.50

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