The dramatic increase in the prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents has led researcher and policy makers alike to make obesity prevention a major priority (Summerbell, Waters, Edmunds, Kelly, Brown, & Campbell, 2005; Troiano & Flegal, 1998). According the the World Health Organization (WHO, 2012), worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, and more than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010. As our society becomes increasingly sedentary, there is an increasing need for physical education.

Physical education (PE) is a vital part in the total education of every student and has been shown to contribute to a person’s physical, psychological, intellectual and social well-being (Baley, 2006). Regular physical activity (PA) decreases the risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis, back pain, colon cancer and breast cancer. It relieves symptoms of depression, puts people in a better mood, and not to forget, physically active individuals live longer. For children and adolescents, adequate PA is very important for their physical, psychological and social development. There are also indications that PA improves psychological health, school performance and social integration. (BASPO, BAG, & HEPA, 2009; Coe, Pivarnik, Womack, Reeves, & Malina, 2006; Dwyer, Coonan, Leitch, Hetzel, & Baghurst, 1983; Sallis, McKenzie, Kolody, Lewis, Marshall, & Rosengard, 1999).

PE aims to teach students the attitudes, knowledge, skills and abilities required to live active and healthy lives. More than ever before, it is important to instill these attitudes and aptitudes in children and adolescents. The aim of any PE program is to enable individuals to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. In other words, the goal is to enable students to become physically educated individuals.

What is a physically educated person?

A physically educated person is one who:

  • Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.
  • Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities
  • Participates regularly in physical activity
  • Achieves and maintains a health enhancing level of physical fitness
  • Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings
  • Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction

Becoming a physically educated person will enable those individuals to enhance their quality of life through active living. By participating in physical education, students will develop not only the knowledge and skills, but also the attitudes necessary to incorporate physical activity into regular routines and leisure pursuits to live an active, healthy lifestyle.

Further Reading

The Nature and Values of Physical Education

Making the Case for Physical Education


Baley, R. (2006). Physical education and sport in schools: A review of benefits and outcomes. Journal of School Health, 76(8), 397-401.

Bundesamts für Sport [BASPO], Bundesamts für Gesundheit [BAG], Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz, & Netzwerks Gesundheit und Bewegung Schweiz [HEPA]. (2009). Health-enhancing physical activity: A base document (3rd ed.). Magglingen: BASPO.

Coe, D. P., Pivarnik, J. M., Womack, C. J., Reeves, M. J., & Malina, R. M. (2006). Effect of physical education and activity levels on academic achievement in children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38, 1515-1519.

Sallis, J., McKenzie, T., Kolody, B., Lewis, M., Marshall, S., & Rosengard, P. (1999). Effects of health-related physical education on academic achievement: Project SPARK. Research Quarterly of Exercise and Sport, 70(2), 127-134.

Dwyer, T., Coonan, W. E., Leitch, D.R., Hetzel, B. S., & Baghurst, R. A. (1983). An investigation of the effects of daily physical activity on the health of primary school students. International Journal of Epidemiology, 12, 308-313.

Summerbell, C.D., Waters, E., Edmunds, L.D., Kelly, S., Brown, T. & Campbell, K.J. (2005). Interventions for preventing obesity in children (review). The Cochrane Library, 3.

Troiano, R. P., & Flegal, K. M. (1998). Overweight children and adolescents: description, epidemiology, and demographics. Pediatrics, 101, 497-504.