High school gym class has long been a source of anxiety for teens who may not be naturally adept at or interested in competitive sports like basketball.
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, an annual event sponsored by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition that aims to encourage citizens to be more active.
Less than 30 percent of high school students had participated in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day in the seven days leading up to a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[Read more about how most U.S. youth don't meet national physical activity guidelines.]
Some high schools are working hard to change the perception of physical education and fitness among students. Schools have revamped physical education to include activities that focus more on individual fitness and less on competition.
At Cameron High School in West Virginia, students can spend gym class in the "exergaming room," a space that houses games that require students to move, says Rich Moffo, a physical education teacher at the school.
The room includes full body video games like Xbox Kinect, a pingpong table, a carnival-style basketball shootout game and a large digital light board that offers a variety of games. In one, students wear boxing gloves and punch moving lights on the board, Moffo says.
Students who work out in the room become more active, competitive and social, Moffo says.
"It’s like they’ve been bitten by the bug," he says.
The exergaming room at Cameron High School was funded through a grant several years ago, Moffo says. The class is so popular that another class will be added next year, he says.
[Find out how high school sports participation has increased.]
Students enrolled in the course will wear a wristband that logs daily movement and complete an online course on exercise, healthy eating and general fitness principles, according to a report in The Daily Progress.
"We have so many offerings that kids really like to take advantage of anything they can do online outside of the regular school day so they can have a full, full schedule of things that they love to do," Stephanie Carter, the school's virtual education program administrator, said in an interview posted on Newsplex.com.
The program has so far been very popular with student athletes who already spend a considerable amount of time exercising.
Students are required to take two years of physical education at the public school. During their freshman year, students take an adventure-style physical education class in a dedicated room that incorporates mountaineering skills such as rock climbing, and learn to swim, Healy says.
In their sophomore year, students can choose to take a traditional physical education class or an elective such as an evening sailing or hiking class. Students in the evening classes take a more traditional physical education class one night a week, to meet state physical education standards, and go sailing or hiking on the weekends.
"We’re trying to introduce them to things that they can do that are outside of competitive sports," she says.
The physical education department relies on grants, fundraisers and donations for new equipment for the long-standing program, she says.
Healy says teachers should get creative when revamping their courses.
"There’s all kinds of creative things you can do in your area, you just have to figure out what kinds of resources you have," she says.
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