By Cindy Atoji, a writer, editor and a veteran newspaper journalist, who specializes in healthcare and business coverage.
What does “Gym Class” make you think of? For some teenagers, these words conjure up the thought of baggy phys ed uniforms; slogging through a 10-minute mile; sitting on the sidelines; or dull sessions on basketball technique. But physical education in schools doesn’t have to be dull drudgery—more and more gym teachers are now focusing less on team sports and more on individual recreational activities. This means that you can have fun and do the things you like to do in PE class—including, in many high schools, incorporating high-tech heart-rate monitors, fitness gadgets, and video games that encourage jumping, running and stretching. Perhaps Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) haven’t hit PE lesson plans yet, but you can ask your teachers about “exergaming” and other interactive options for teens.
But even if you think your P.E. class still has too many jumping jacks and pull-ups and not enough time for goofing around with your friends, here are some ways you can get the most out of gym class (and P.S.—the more sweat you put in, the more results you’ll get, as far as a buff and ideal body mass index – or BMI – for you).
No matter how much you weigh today, your body was built to be active. Don’t let teasing from other kids prevent you from participating and enjoying PE class. If you are less self-conscious and more confident, others will pick up on your attitude.
Make the most of every minute
One study showed that in an average physical education class, students are only active for 8.6 percent of the time. That means you’re sitting around listening to instructions or waiting your turn instead of exercising. If you’re the captain of your team, split kids into smaller groups so everyone gets to do something.
Do your homework
Exercise needs to happen daily, not just during gym class. Sign up for after-school soccer or organize a baseball game in your backyard. Even just choosing to turn off the TV and going outside to practice your tennis swing can make a difference. Finding a workout buddy can help, too.
Use gym class to relieve stress
School can be a lot—pressure to get good grades, gossipy friends, even the little nagging worry about zits or not being able to afford the new cell phone you want. But gym class can be a time to relax and have fun. Unless you plan to major in physical education, you probably don’t need to worry about your performance or grades.
Try to sign up for more PE class time
States are mandating less and less physical education time for high schoolers. This means that, unlike in the past, when kids had to take gym class at least a few times a week or even daily, gym class isn’t a big requirement. If you have the opportunity to volunteer to help out with gym class—or even take more classes—consider exercising your right to be in a physical education program.
Ask your teachers to add more fun exercise activities
Sure, dodgeball is that old gym class standby, but some districts are adding Zumba (Latin aerobic dancing), martial arts, and even adventure pursuits like mountain biking, downhill skiing, rollerblading, and rock climbing.
This article has been reviewed by BodiMojo expert Carolyn Butterworth, RD, RN.
Last reviewed Nov. 17, 2014.