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Kinder, gentler P.E. meant to get kids hooked on exercise

physical education class
Instructors are boosting confidence levels by designing classes in which students participate at their own level  

October 2, 1999
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EDT (2250 GMT)

In this story:

'For every youngster'


From Reporter Kathleen Koch

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Remember the old-time gym classes, with strenuous calisthenics, screaming drill instructors and constant competition?

Well, in some schools these days, that kind of physical education class is just a bad memory, replaced by a kinder, gentler gym philosophy called 'new P.E.'

VideoKathleen Koch reports that many physical education teachers today promote individual performance rather than competition to become the best athlete in the class.
Windows Media 28K 80K

Gone are the rigorous exercises and games where the skilled students excelled and the weak struggled. Instead, instructors are boosting confidence levels and the fun factor by designing classes where everyone participates at their own level.

'For every youngster'

"Athletics are great. But physical education is for every youngster -- to help them learn about themselves, learn about their bodies, learn ways to become physically active but not necessarily to compete," said Dr. George Graham, a P.E. professor at Virginia Tech.

girl and hula-hoop

In schools with new P.E., grades are based not on who is the strongest or fastest but who can meet their own personal standards in various exercise disciplines.

For example, students might be judged on whether they can reach their target heart rate level and keep it for a certain period of time, rather than who can run the farthest or fastest or lift the most weight. Or they might be graded on how much they improve their level of fitness over time.

"The goal is ... to get kids to strive to better themselves and where they are," says Barbara Clark, a P.E. teacher at Woodson High School in Virginia. "It's a fitness goal. It's no so much a competitive goal."

The switch is being made because the old-style gym classes were making exercise a turnoff for youngsters -- one in five of whom is overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But for the "new P.E." to change sedentary lifestyles, experts say kids need more exposure to it. Lack of time and money has caused most schools to offer P.E. only one to three days per week.

Welcome to Virginia Tech
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