Phys-Ed Horror Story - No Place in PE

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Scientific evidence is blazing light on the impacts of positive early physical activity experiences on lifelong healthy exercise habits. At the same time, teacher training in physical education is being clawed back, leaving some teachers to defer to damaging beliefs and approaches that have no place in modern physical education.


Dr. Yoni Freedhoff recently reposted a blog from 2014 “High School Phys-Ed Horror Story Highlights Risk of Tying Exercise to Weight Loss”. The blog highlighted one experience in a secondary school where students were required to participate in a weekly high intensity fitness regime and publicly track and display their weight, measurements, and body mass index (BMI) to the class. How would you like to have your “measurements” put on display for all to see? We didn’t think so! Such actions, while perhaps with misguided good intentions, can result in detrimental current and future impacts on a child – especially at an age when they are dealing with body image and self-esteem challenges and we begin to see declining rates in sport and physical activity.


Physical education needs to be educational, developmentally appropriate, inclusive, safe, fun, and an enriching experience that challenges and inspires all students to develop their knowledge, skills, and attitudes to become healthy and active outside the school walls and throughout their lifetime.


Physical and Health Education Canada (PHE Canada) is a national charitable association devoted to healthy, active kids. PHE Canada recognizes the important role of physical and health education in starting a child on a path to a healthy, active future. Evidence has shown that students who receive quality daily physical education programming score higher on measures of enjoyment, attitude, and knowledge toward healthy lifestyles, 1,2. maintain and often enhance, academic performance, 3, 4, 5, 6. and are more likely to be active during their leisure time, 7. and later in life. 8. 


The Honourable Nancy Greene Raine, a Senator and Olympic Champion, is a strong advocate for quality physical education programming. “With obesity rates on the rise, less than half of Canadian children meeting the recommended physical activity levels, and children spending almost half their waking day in school, physical education plays a crucial role in introducing and engaging Canadian children in sport and physical activity.”


The importance and benefits of physical education is evident, but its impact is only as good as its delivery.  Physical and Health Education Canada is Canada’s leading resource for quality programs that support healthy physical education curriculum delivery and professional development opportunities.


Let’s provide positive physical and health education experiences to our children that propel them towards a lifetime of healthy, active living. 


1. Bungum et al., 2000,  2. Janzen et al., 2003, 3. Chomitz et al., 2009, 4.Sallis et al., 1997, 5. Shephard, 1997, 6. Trudeau & Shephard, 2008, 7.  Dale et al., 2000, 8. Shephard & Trudeau, 2000.