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Physical Education and Academic Achievement in Low-Income Neighborhoods

We all know that being physically active is vital for our health and our lives. Engaging in physical activity is important to prevent obesity, lowering the risk of acquiring Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases (White House Let’s Move campaign, 2015). Recent studies show that youth today are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity as per the guidelines for health-related outcomes (Salmon & Timperio, 2007). It is recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis (Janssen & LeBlanc, 2010; US Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Children are not meeting this requirement because physical education classes are being reduced and in some cases are being cut from their school day. It has been found that 30% of America’s youth are provided with physical education classes daily, whereas nearly 50% are not participating in any kind of physical education during the school week (Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Committee on School Health, 2012). A lack of resources because of unfunded programs is one reason for the decline in physical activity levels in our youth. In order to enhance achievement and performance on standardized test is another reason used for cutting and eliminating physical education programs in our schools to increase children’s time in the classroom (Wójcicki & McAuley, 2014). The lack of physical activity among our youth puts them at a greater risk of obesity, but it can also effect academic achievement. After all, children’s participation in physical activity can lead to greater attention and improved learning (Wójcicki & McAuley, 2014).

For these reasons, our team decided to investigate if the lack of physical education at the high school level affects student’s academic achievement in low income areas. The reason for why we choose low income areas is because academic achievement is lower in urban areas and it continues to persist. This problem has been explained by a great number of students performing poorly on standardized test and not performing at grade level, along with high rates of high school drop outs and special education classification (Ahram, Stembridge, Fergus, & Noguera, 2015). What we want to know about this topic that we do not know is if the time spent in physical education impacts high school student’s academic performance in low income areas. The consequence of not knowing this information can be that student’s academic achievement is negatively affected, as a result of not taking into account how cutting time in physical education actually reduces academic performance. This research topic is significant because it can help prevent obesity, improve academic achievement and the challenges already faced by youth growing up in low-income areas that affect their development and their futures.


Ahram, R., Stembridge, A., Fergus, E., & Noguera, P. (2015). Framing urban school challenges: The problems to examine when implementing response to intervention. Retrieved from http://www.rtinetwork.org/learn/diversity/urban-school-challenges

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012). Physical activity resources for health professionals. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/professionals/index.html

Janssen, I., & LeBlanc, A. G. (2010). Review Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7(40), 1-16.

Salmon, J., & Timperio, A. (2007). Prevalence, trends and environmental influences on child and youth physical activity.

US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). (2008). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from http://health.gov/paguidelines/

White House Let’s Move campaign. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.letsmove.gov/action

Wójcicki, T. R., & McAuley, E. (2014). II. Physical activity: measurement and behavioral patterns in children and youth. Monographs Of The Society For Research In Child Development, 79(4), 7-24.

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