PE: One of the "Core" Subjects

by Doreen Blanding

There is a tragedy happening in our public schools and it is budget cuts. When the downturn in the economy started, people started paying less taxes and one of the major tax items for any state is the public school system. Out came the knives that carved away the fat in those budgets. If we are to believe the public reports in the news, the first things to go are the "extras" like music, art and PE. (Personally I kind of find this interesting since those are some of the subjects that, by law, my state requires that I teach my children.) 

This isn't new. This happened twenty plus years ago when I was one of those students in the public school system. I remember only having one art class a week when we used to go to the art room three times a week the year before. I remember sharing our PE teacher with the school across town and we only went to one PE class every other week. I remember music class was held in the gym on alternating weeks and the only instruments we had were recorders. 

Thankfully I homeschool my kids so I don't have to trim the fat and get rid of these wonderful classes in my school. In fact they are very important subjects in my house and often some of the most expensive items on my school budget. 

Health has been a major topic in our house for as long as I can remember; even before I decided to homeschool. I was an athlete before marriage and tried to continue in the following years by being active. I believe in setting a good example. I haven't been the best, but at least I’m encouraging and trying to be that slim, trim athlete I was some decades ago. 

Statistics show that America is getting fatter. In fact one study I read a couple years ago said that two-thirds of American adults are overweight. Even more shocking is the number for those under 18. According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) "Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation ago." Obesity leads to all sorts of health problems but I won't bore you with all the ugly details because I want to encourage you to get up and do something about it. America's problem is that we have become a nation of eaters and sitters. We eat and then we sit. We eat the wrong stuff and then sit around and complain about how fat and out of shape we are. 

We are lucky. As Latter-day Saints we have modern revelation that can help us find a way to health and happiness. If you just go to the Church's website and type in "health" in the search engine you will find a year's worth of articles and lesson plans. The magazine articles alone make up over 2,000 different entries. "Physical Health" is even in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet that we should all have and use as we teach our children. 

First there is the Word of Wisdom. Doctrine and Covenants section 89 makes a wonderful unit study. Take it apart, study it and see how you might be able to improve your eating habits. It isn't just about things we shouldn't consume or put in our bodies; it is also about things we should be doing and consuming. Involve your children in the study. They will more readily be willing to implement the guidance given through the Prophet. The July 2007 issue of the New Era has a great article for teens (and everyone) by Riley M. Lorimer entitled Take Care. It contains one of my favorite bits of wisdom for all ages. "When considering nutrition, always remember the principles of judgment (see D&C 59:16–20) and prudence (as set forth in the Word of Wisdom; see D&C 89:11)." 

The second is found in Doctrine and Covenants section 58:27, "men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause,". I know many of us think this is about service and doing good for others, but I like to think this also means being anxiously engaged in the good cause of making sure our bodies are healthy. It is a service to our children and their children to make sure that we are healthy, but even more importantly is the good cause of the knowledge and practice we pass along by our examples and lessons. 

In the wonderful Proclamation to the World on the family, modern day prophets added something special we are do to with our families, Happy and "successful families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, 1995). So get up and move with your family! Start planning and participating in "wholesome recreational activities." 

You don't need a whole classroom of kids to have a successful PE class, you just need to have a desire to exercise. Toddlers need about 90 minutes a day of physical activity (30 minutes planned and 60 unstructured play). Preschoolers need 120 minutes of physical activity (60 minutes planned and 60 minutes unstructured physical activity). School age children (6-18) need 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day. No child should be inactive for a period of two hours unless they are sleeping. Here are some of the great things we have done in our family to get our PE in.

Shoot baskets 
Run around the block 
Walk the dogs 
Throw a frisbee 
Play on the play structure 
Walk to the library from the grocery store 
Play hop scotch 
Play marbles 
Play pioneer games 
Ride our scooters 
Ride our bikes 
Go for a hike 
Kick a soccer ball 
Check out DVDs from the library and try yoga, Pilates, kick boxing, etc. 
Go geocaching 
Jump in puddles 
Play catch 
Hula hoop 
Roller blades 
Play duck-duck-goose (yes, even with four kids) 
Explore our town 
Go for a walk 
Fly kites 
Play at the beach 
Jump on the trampoline 
Go swimming 
Play in the snow 
Yard work 
Outdoor service for another 
Take a PE class 
Participate in organized sports

Be creative. Notice my list was things that are almost all free. You don't have to cut your PE class because of budget cuts or even the weather. Don't let the wind, rain, snow and ugly weather of winter set you back. Living in the Seattle area and dealing with rain almost all year round we have found that you can have a lot of fun playing in the rain, especially if there is a warm fire and hot chocolate at the end. 

I'm not an over the top health nut, but I do believe that we need to physically take care of the temple God has given us (1 Corinthians 3:16) as well as mentally and spiritually. Gather your children, talk about getting some fresh air and plan your next PE class. Put it on the calendar and have fun. Remember the Lord gave us this temple and it is our responsibility to keep it clean and use it for a long time. 

Some of my favorite articles on Health from the Church

"Focusing on Family Fitness" Ensign, September 1990 
"Take Care" by Riley M. Lorimer, NewEra July 2007 
"The Body is a Blessing" by John S. Tanner, Ensign 1993

You can leave your thoughts, comments or suggestions here on my feedback page. Thanks!

- Doreen