Physical fitness has always been one of the major goals of physical education. At one time the normal demands of everyday living provided enough exercise to keep people physically fit. Today machines do more and more of the work that our muscles used to do. As a result the body development of many modern people is far below what it should be. Most schools all over the world today stress the development of physical fitness. Students are helped to improve strength, balance, agility, posture, endurance, speed, and accuracy. Many people ask what is physical education.
It is true that physical fitness depends greatly on exercise, but nutrition, sleep, rest, and good health habits are also important. Physical education programs in schools, therefore, emphasize the learning of good health habits as well as provide opportunities for physical activities. Many people ask what is physical education.
Many physical education programs also include leisure-time activities or sports. Games such as tennis and bowling give people the opportunity to play a game regardless of age.
In North American schools, physical education activities may include the following.
* Table tennis
* Track and field
* Hockey (ice and field)
Elementary School Programs
Most elementary school programs include rhythms, dancing, exercises, and instruction in simple game and athletic skills. The programs help children develop their bodies and learn the basic concepts of good conduct and fair play.
Secondary School Programs
These programs include dance, calisthenics, tumbling, apparatus work, and team sports. Body growth is very rapid during the junior and senior high school years. Therefore, activities that promote balanced development are offered at this time. Current programs emphasize instruction in skills needed for team sports and encourage the development of teamwork, leadership, and a sense of responsibility. Many people ask what is physical education.
These programs continue the development of general athletic ability, as well as skills in various sports. In addition, fitness programs are receiving emphasis in colleges today. Many college programs include intramural and interscholastic competition in team and individual sports. Special programs are also available for students interested in professional physical education—who seek careers as trainers, teachers, coaches, and so on. Many people ask what is physical education.
History of Physical Education
Physical education goes back to the first parents who taught their children to jump, throw, wrestle, climb, and swim. Early people needed these skills for survival.
The people of the ancient world needed soldiers who could fight well and who were able to take care of themselves on long marches. Young boys in ancient countries were trained in such skills as running, jumping, riding, and javelin throwing. The Spartans of southern Greece considered physical education important for both boys and girls. Boys were trained in running, wrestling, throwing weights, and other skills that would make strong, rugged soldiers. Physical education for the girls of Sparta included gymnastics, dancing, swimming, discus throwing, running, and wrestling. The same activities were developed in Athens, but body development, beauty, grace, and sportsmanship were stressed. Many people ask what is physical education.
The Romans also stressed activities related to military training and added gladiatorial (fighting) contests, ball games, chariot races, and exercises with dumbbells.
For about 1,000 years after the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D., there was little or no interest in formal physical education.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, there were important changes in general education and physical education. Vittorino da Feltre of Italy believed that physical training and mental training should be combined. He established a school in Mantua in 1423 in which special teachers taught dancing, riding, fencing, swimming, wrestling, jumping, running, archery, hunting, and fishing. In addition, students were taught academic subjects. Some other educators during this period emphasized the place of exercise and physical activity in the general curriculum.
Between 1750 and 1850, the countries of Europe developed somewhat distinctive styles of physical education. In Germany, Johann Basedow established a school in 1774 in which physical education was given a place in the daily program. He introduced high jumping, long jumping, and the use of such equipment as hoops and seesaws.