Gym requirement contributes to student stress, fails to encourage exercise


Graphic by Jai Khurana

David Feng

There are many steps students must take in order to graduate from North. Some of these requirements include taking English for all four years, earning 15 math credits, or taking four years of physical education (P.E.). 

The last of these requirements is especially unpopular for many students. The P.E. requirement is unnecessary, adds avoidable stress, and does not fill its intended purpose.

According to the Newton Public Schools website, P.E. aims to promote a “healthy lifestyle, positive choices and student centeredness, which will provide each student with a diverse education in a safe supportive environment.”

North’s website states, a “healthy lifestyle,” is an “active” and “balanced” lifestyle. However, for many students, North’s P.E. requirement does not help them become more active and limits the amount of time students have to sleep or do work, and therefore should not be a requirement at North.

According to a School Committee report, in 2014, 44 percent of students at North participated in sports at school. This means almost half of North’s students achieve an active lifestyle through competing in sports. Many students also participate in sports and activities outside of school, which is not represented in the report.

While taking a P.E. class may promote an active lifestyle, many students already live a healthy lifestyle through exercising in sports or clubs in and outside of school. Because of these activities, many students question the necessity of P.E class.

“If you’re already getting exercise outside of school, what’s the point of taking the P.E. class, if you’re already fit?” said junior Max Chalfin-Jacobs, who plays Ultimate Frisbee, as well as soccer outside of school. 

In addition to P.E being unnecessary for many students, having to take a P.E. class also takes up time in blocks from students who could use them for studies or free blocks. The athletes who spend time outside of school exercising, need a P.E class the least, and would benefit greatly from the extra time to do work in free and study blocks. 

Students with completely filled out schedules, not only have to deal with the stress of having no frees or studies, but also have to take AM swim, a class which starts at 7:00 a.m. Even though AM swim is considered an accommodation, because of the early start time, AM swim often adds more stress in the morning for some students.

“The months of the year when I do take AM swim, a lot more planning has to go in. I have to plan out my lunch, and my outfit the day before,” said junior Isabella Rizzo, who takes AM swim. Rizzo also participates in girls’ cross country as well as Dreamfar, North’s marathon club, which makes having to wake up early for P.E. seem unnecessary.

One of North’s reasons for implementing the P.E. requirement is to promote an active lifestyle for students. However, students can avoid the goal of maintaining an active lifestyle even when taking a P.E. course. When taking P.E. classes such as Sexuality and Health II and Stress Management that do not include physical activity, students can fulfill the P.E. requirement without being active, making taking P.E. seem unnecessary.

Not only is the requirement of taking a physical education class each year unnecessary, it does not always accomplish its goals, and leads to unnecessary stress for many students. If students already have a healthy amount of exercise without taking a P.E class, the added fitness would be an unnecessary class for most. Many other schools such as Brookline and Watertown have already implemented a policy that allows school sports to count as credit towards graduation. 

If North wishes to help reduce stress among its students, removing the restriction of a physical education class would help accomplish that goal. A P.E. class in many cases, does more harm than good for many students, and North would be better off without the requirement.