About the Issue

Physical education, commonly referred to as PE, has been taught in American schools for more than a century—educating students on what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. And for good reason. Regular physical activity is associated with a healthier, longer life and with a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, mental health problems, and even some cancers. But, it doesn’t stop there. These benefits extend into the classroom, too. Studies have shown that active children perform better in school, behave better in the classroom, and have a greater ability to focus. Because physical activity improves academic performance, it can also become an important strategy to address health disparities, like childhood obesity, and the achievement gap.

Girls and boys from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, through all grades, and in urban and rural settings benefit from physical education.

Physical education offers all of our kids the best chance for physical activity in their school day and teaches them the skills needed to sustain an active and healthy lifestyle.

Despite these benefits, PE programs have been decreasing around the country. In fact, only 4% of elementary, 8% of middle, and 2% of high schools provide daily physical education or its equivalent for the entire school year. More than half of high school students don’t attend any physical education classes in any of their grades.

Thankfully, the vast majority (95%) of parents with children under 18 think physical education should be part of school curriculum for all students in grades K-12. They also believe it’s just as important as any other academic subject.

Throughout this toolkit, you will find helpful information for building out your own advocacy efforts aimed at increasing access to the benefits of PE programs in schools, including steps on building a campaign, resources and example content, and stories of success in other communities. Together, by encouraging our educational and community leaders to support effective physical education programs, we can make students healthier and happier, and increase their academic success. That’s a win-win-win.