phys-edWe recently covered how the new Illinois Enhanced Physical Education (PE) Standards are leading the nation in focusing on improved fitness in children as a way to increase academic achievement. While the standards don’t take effect until next school year, school districts are developing their programs, policies, and curricula now. Here are six frequently asked questions about Enhanced PE and how you can be involved.

What is Enhanced PE?
The Center for Disease Control’s Guide to Community Preventive Services explains that Enhanced PE involves making classes longer or having students be more active during existing classes to increase the amount of time students spend doing moderate to vigorous physical activity.

How is Enhanced PE different from regular PE?
Regular PE generally emphasized the skills and rules to play team games, focused on competition, and often had periods of time where some students were primarily standing and watching. Enhanced PE focuses on:

  • Small groups with active participation for all
  • Health-related fitness components of PE
  • Students designing their own individual program based on their personal fitness goals
  • Students monitoring their performance with pedometers, heart rate monitors, and other fitness technology

The Illinois Enhance PE Task Force final report provided a summary page that includes more changes with Enhanced PE.

If students are spending more time in PE class with Enhanced PE, won’t that hurt learning in other classes?
Longer PE classes are only one way to implement Enhanced PE; it can also be implemented by changing the PE curriculum to increase student activity and minimize “downtime” or by including “Brain Breaks” that integrate physical activity throughout the school day. The research-based benefits of Enhanced PE suggest that there will be an increase student learning even if there is a decrease in instruction time.

What are the benefits of Enhanced PE?
There are numerous studies that show that increased physical activity results in students having improved attention, enhanced coping ability, less fidgeting, and improved working memory as well as other effects that enhance academic achievement. Students with higher activity levels also report more satisfaction with life and have higher attendance rates as well.

What can I or my PTA do to support Enhanced PE at my child’s school?

  • Ask your principal or school board if parents are being included in the implementation of Enhanced PE in the school or district. If not, ask to be included in the process.
  • Share information with your parents about what Enhanced PE is and how it will be implemented in your district and at your school.
  • Ask your child’s teacher if “Brain Breaks” are happening in the classroom.
  • Work with your school to create an Enhanced PE Activity Night. Provide hands-on opportunities to participate in some sample activities.

What resources are available on Enhanced PE?