Physical Education (PE) is known to be an important activity in schools. PE is the instruction of physical exercise and games. It is the most powerful (and overlooked) ‘medicine’ for present and future health issues, for the body, mind and spirit.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure — including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits.
Michael Maniraguha, a lecturer at University of Rwanda, Huye Campus says, PE develops motor skills and is a development of reflexes. It also improves good body movements, which helps in the development of a healthy body posture.
PE helps students to be healthy mentally and physically. When a student is healthy, it allows their capacity to understand and interpret what they are learning. PE can also play a big role in stress management as students are always overloaded with revision, homework, family and peer pressure, which they need to off load, he notes.
Maniraguha adds that PE can also help students, especially those who are overweight to balance their weight, it can even help one to discover what they are able to do in sports.
Barbra Kantengwa, a teacher at APAPEC-Irebero School, Gisozi, explains that PE offers learners an opportunity to learn how to be effective in competitiveness, creativity and challenging situations.
She notes that PE classes expose learners to the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The students can also retain a higher level of knowledge as a result of the overall health. This knowledge can help them make wise decisions regarding their safety, health, and well-being.
Experts in physical health say, regular physical activity can help to improve the absorption of nutrients in the body. It also helps to advance cardiovascular health and develop muscular strength. The heart plays an important role in pumping blood to the entire body. When students remain inactive throughout the day, they can be at a risk of various cardiovascular issues. All students need is ample playtime and running around the field.
“Students usually learn when they obverse what their teachers do. When they are guided on which sports to do, it helps them learn and it even becomes better if PE is done regularly. The essence of PE is that it introduces students to a wide range of exercises, which is how they learn about the different physical activities that they can easily enjoy,” Kantengwa states.
Maniraguha says that PE builds students’ self-confidence as it provides a positive influence on a student’s personality, character and self-regard. In addition, the team-building process boosts communication skills, and the ability required to get along and unite with students of different backgrounds and personalities. Students get the opportunity to work as a team, question actions by their peers and accept responsibilities for their own actions.
Kantengwa says, PE also increases attentiveness of students in class, breeds better grades, and improves behaviour. However, she calls upon physical educators to help learners make the right choice of physical activities.
She notes, some of the ways educators can promote physical education, inside and outside the classroom, is through integrating classroom-based physical activities, heartening physical activities during recess, providing physical education taught by a qualified PE teacher to all students, investing in physical fitness equipment, stimulating interscholastic sports, and working with communities to provide after-school physical activity programmes for children and teens.
WHO notes, insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as; cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
More than 80 per cent of the world’s adolescent population is insufficiently physically active. Policies to address insufficient physical activity are operational in 56 per cent of WHO Member States. WHO member states have agreed to reduce insufficient physical activity by 10 per cent, by 2025.