PE should NOT mean Sport!

What will humanity look like in the medium term future? According to a recent Disney-Pixar film called Wall•E, humans will have distinct balloon features complete with sausage fingers and toes, and who are otherwise so weak that they cannot stand on their own, but need to be carried around on hover chairs. It’s a funny film but it has many serious messages for us, such as our tendency to pollute our environment, and of course the way we abuse our bodies through lack of exercise and poor nutritional choices. 

I’m personally interested in this because my PhD involved sports psychology; because I definitely feel that my own physical education was lacking (my nickname at school was ‘Sack’o’Potatoes’) and to this day I’m still struggling with my overall weight which is clearly on the side of ‘unhealthy’ rather than ‘healthy’. I’m sadly not alone. The developed world is struggling with an obesity pandemic. Fiji is also looking at very high rates of circulatory diseases and diabetes relative to the size of the nation. These trends have been traced to poor nutrition and exercise habits. The Ministry of Health tries their best with posters and TV adverts, but sadly I think most of us are guilty of simply letting our eyes and ears simply wash over these sensible messages.

A nation’s best hope for a healthy population is with our children. We need to train our children to keep their bodies healthy. We need to physically exercise our bodies in order to keep good posture, maintain muscle mass, keep our joints ‘lubricated’ and to have a good oxygen supply throughout the body to supply our tissues with oxygen and to take away any toxins or things bad for our body tissues. Physical exercise maintains bone density, and is even prescribed by some (forward thinking) physicians as a lifestyle therapy. If I was told about these things in my PE classes I must have been dozing because this is something that I’ve only started learning about now, pretty much 3 decades later than I should have.

Should not PE really be about educating ourselves to keep our bodies in optimal health? From my view point, ‘PE’ in our schools really stands for ‘sport’. Our PE lessons really mean play soccer, netball, hockey or rugby. For those that are good, the students get to represent their school, district and perhaps nation in their sport. Nothing wrong with that.

Except that it’s not ‘PE’ – it’s sport. 

This is why many former school athletes leave school in their physical prime, and become the overweight Aunty or Uncle that the nephews and nieces cannot compare with the stories and photos of these former athletic stars. They trained to be good at their sport, but they did not train to look after their bodies.  

So at the Multiple Intelligence Centre we’re trying something different. Our PE is based around giving children the habits of a lifetime to increase and then maintain at an optimal level their: (i) practical strength, (ii) aerobic endurance and (iii) flexibility. All the skills they need regardless of which sport they practice either in school or later when they leave and become working adults. We think this will help prevent our children from becoming characters as in the film Wall•E, or to become tomorrow’s faded track & field athlete.

And sports? We love sports, but not for core of our PE. That's another blog.

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  -Will Durant