How well a PE fitness program is taught increases the possibility that students become hooked on the activity.
A PE fitness activity, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. Instead, how fitness activities are taught influences how students feel about making fitness a part of their lifestyles.
Physical educators should keep in mind that the majority of youth (unless it is a class designed for athletes) are more interested in good health than high levels of skill-related fitness.
1. Individualize Fitness Workloads
Students who often find difficulty during fitness activities are less likely to develop a positive attitude towards physical activity.
Strategy: Use time rather than reps and distance as the lesson objective and encourage students to do the best they can within the time limit.
2. Present a Variety of Fitness Routines & Exercises
Teaching a wide variety of fitness activities decreases the monotony of doing the same routines week after week and increases the likelihood that students will find their fitness experiences enjoyable.
Strategy: Frequently change PE fitness activities by changing the design, music, equipment and exercises.
3. Provide Meaningful Feedback
Teacher feedback is instrumental in the way students perceive fitness activities. Immediate, accurate, and specific feedback regarding performance encourages continued participation.
Strategy: Provide feedback in a positive manner, this feedback can stimulate youths to extend their participation habits outside the PE class. Reinforce everybody, not just those who perform at high levels. All students need feedback and reinforcement, even if they are incapable of performing at an elite level.
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4. Teach Physical Skills and Fitness
Physical education programs teach skill development and fitness. Some states mandate fitness testing, which may make teachers worry that their students “will not pass.” This concern can lead to the skill development portion of physical education being sacrificed in order to increase the emphasis on teaching fitness.
Strategy: Teaching various skill-based activities such as tennis, badminton, swimming, golf, basketball, aerobics, cycling, and the like will give students the tools needed to maintain fitness. People have a much greater tendancy to participate as adults if they feel competent in an activity. Skills and physical activity go hand in hand for an active lifestyle.
5. Be a Positive Role Model
Appearance, attitude, and actions speak loudly about teachers and their values regarding fitness. Teachers who display physical vitality, take pride in being active, participate in fitness activities with students, and are physically fit positively influence young people to maintain an active lifestyle.
Strategy: “Walk the Talk”. It is unreasonable to expect teachers to complete a fitness routine each period, 5 days a week. However, teachers must exercise with a class periodically to assure students they are willing to do what they ask them to do.
6. Foster the Attitudes of Students
Attitudes dictate whether youths choose to participate in activity. Teachers and parents sometimes take the approach of forcing fitness on students in order to “make them all fit.” This can lead to resentment and insensitivity to the feelings of students. Training does not equate to lifetime fitness. When students are trained without concern for their feelings, it is possible the result will be fit students who dislike physical activity.
Once a negative attitude is developed, it is difficult to change. This does not mean that young people should avoid fitness activity. It means that PE fitness participation must be a positive and success-based experience.
Stategy: The fitness experience must be a challenge rather than a threat. A challenge is an experience that participants feel they can accomplish.
In contrast, a threat appears to be an impossible undertaking—one where there is no use trying. As a final note, remember that whether activity is a challenge or a threat depends on the perceptions of the learner, not the instructor. Listen to students express their concerns. Don’t tell them to “do it for your own good.”
7. Start Easy and Progress Slowly
Fitness development is a journey, not a destination. No teacher wants students to get fit in school only to become inactive adults.
Strategy: A rule of thumb is to allow students to start at a level they can accomplish. This means offering the option of self-directed workloads within a specified time frame. Don’t force students into heavy workloads too soon. It is impossible to start a PE fitness program at a level that is too easy.
Start with success and gradually increase the workload to avoid the discouragement of failure and excessive muscle soreness. When students successfully accomplish activities, they learn a system of self-talk that expresses exercise behavior in a positive light. This avoids the common practice of self-criticism when students fail to live up to their own or others’ standards.
8. Encourage Activities that are Positively Addicting
Teachers want students to exercise throughout adulthood. Certain activities may be more likely to stimulate exercise outside of school. Glasser, (1985) in his book Positive Addiction suggests that if the following activity conditions are met, exercise will become positively addicting and a necessary part of one’s life.
These steps imply that many individual activities, including walking, jogging, hiking, biking, and the like, are activities students might regularly use for fitness during adulthood.
Strategy: The following strategies will help students “get hooked” into physical activities:
- The activity must be noncompetitive; the student chooses and wants to do it
- It must not require a great deal of mental effort
- Choose activities that can be done alone- without partners or teammates
- Students must believe in the value of the exercise for improving health and general welfare
- Participants must believe that the activity will become easier and more meaningful if they persist. To become addicting, the activity must be done for at least 6 months.
- The activity should be accomplished in such a manner that the participant is not self-critical
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