Holidays without touching the books … and also without playing sports?


Christmas arrives and schools and institutes empty. Children and young people will leave their backpack parked behind the door of their room and probably will not touch it until the day before they return to class, although there will be some exception.

That’s what vacations are for, to disconnect books, homework or extracurricular classes for a couple of weeks. It is almost necessary to face the rest of the course with guarantees of success. Perhaps, they will miss the Physical Education classes, having those hours a week in which to practice healthy sports activity, in addition to learning other skills accompanied by their peers and their teacher.

If the boys and girls are aware of maintaining a daily physical and sports activity, surely they do not lie on the sofa or in front of the screens every Christmas.

Physical Education is no longer “gymnastics”

Gone are the years in which the “gymnastics” of the school was considered a subject “Mary”, a break between class and class for some to play with the ball and others to jump rope.

Today the situation is totally different. I would invite anyone who wishes to visit a modern educational center, where you can observe how these classes are currently taught. It will surely be a great joy to see how it has gone from a traditional education, based on physical fitness and sports performance, to a modern Physical Education, with the application of active and student-centered methodologies, in which premium , among other things, health-oriented training, educational and healthy sports initiation, active expression and body image, games, leisure and recreation.

This change has been caused by the improvement of teacher training from the university, in the Faculties of Education and Sciences of Physical Activity and Sports, both in initial training and in continuing education.

Now what stands out in the profession within Physical Education and sports pedagogy are good practices, and the usual thing is to meet outstanding professionals, with a dynamic training and attitude, motivated, hardworking and with great concern for their students or players.

The sports context is an excellent environment where you can educate young people through fair play, equality, cooperation, etc. Although to achieve these objectives, it is essential to apply a well-designed training program that explicitly incorporates the teaching of values, as well as that the teacher who implements this program is competent for it.

All these aspects condition both the process and the pedagogical result, the learning and experiences of young people, and, therefore, also their feelings and sensations.

Improve educational laws

Currently, the educational law is what it is, and the feeling that most of the teachers have is that trying to change it to improve the education system in Spain is like when Don Quixote fought against windmills. All of us in the classrooms, regardless of educational level, observe key elements that would need to be modified or improved with very little effort.

Some of these changes do not require more funding, but better planning and organization of human and material resources. Although if the budget for education and research is improved, it is certain that progress would also be made towards a wiser, more just society with civic values.

Among the reasons that justify a greater prominence of body and sports education in classrooms are not only the most obvious, such as the health of schoolchildren (control of overweight and obesity in children and youth). Between 30-35% of children and young people between 2 and 17 years are overweight or obese, with the regions of Andalusia, Murcia, Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands having the greatest problems, according to statistics from the National Health Survey in Spain 2017

Disease prevention

Likewise, it is vital to improve the general physical condition of children and adolescents, as well as the benefits of the usual practice of physical and sports activity with health, as it can prevent a series of conditions, among which are heart disease , Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Physical Education, if taught correctly, with the appropriate resources and methodologies, positively educates psychosocial factors (self-esteem, physical self-concept, resilience, relationship with friends, etc.), their coordination, balance, agility or proprioception abilities, body expression, sports culture, or the ability to share motor tasks or spaces, sports games and emotions with their peers. That they learn to solve problems or work cooperatively to achieve the same goal together. All to promote that students are more autonomous, responsible, and also more active.

WHO recommends more activity

Having a child from 3 to 11 years sitting for five hours straight goes against nature and healthy behaviors are not being favored.

Four scientists belonging to the World Health Organization (WHO) have recently published in The Lancet Global Health the results of the largest study conducted so far in this line in the period 2001-2016 and with a sample of 1.6 million young people from 145 countries.

The study shows that 80% of adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17 do not perform the daily physical activities recommended by WHO. The three main conclusions drawn from the study are:

  1. The situation has hardly improved in the period of time analyzed.
  2. Girls do less exercise, when the benefits of practicing it regularly are similar for girls than for boys.
  3. Obesity has already become a global epidemic, affecting both poor and rich countries.

If we follow the recommendations of the WHO, schoolchildren “should do a minimum of sixty minutes of physical activity of moderate or intense intensity on a daily basis”, and it is observed that there are many children and young people who do not do physical activities in their leisure time or sports.

But the increase in the number of class hours must be accompanied by an increase in the quality of learning, because with more educational time students can deepen their theoretical and practical knowledge, assimilating and developing active and healthy lifestyles.

A minimum of three hours per week

The latest educational laws have maintained the teaching load of physical education in the curriculum, despite the open debate among experts, and in society in general, on the need to extend the schedule to at least three hours a week.

This change would be a positive step, although they would not be the ideal conditions. In fact, there is already an autonomous community that has taken this step, such as Andalusia and others that seem to continue with this initiative, because we have news that both the Valencian Community and the Basque Country will also approve similar measures in a short space of time. But why not arrive at four hours of weekly Physical Education class?

Author Bio: Sixto González Víllora is Professor of the University in Teaching Physical Education and Sports at the University of Castilla-La Mancha