The Impact of Physical Education on Student Outcomes: A Review of Research in Economics, Education, Kinesiology, and Psychology

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Literature from a variety of fields indicates that Physical Education classes can have a positive impact on students? educational outcomes. Kinesiology and health related publications indicate that individuals who engage in regular, vigorous exercise reap myriad health benefits, including a decreased risk of contracting chronic diseases. The benefits of exercise are particularly noteworthy for school age children, many of whom are obese, and lack access to sufficiently rigorous P.E. classes. Anecdotal evidence from the education field further suggests that students who engage in physical activity during the day are more focused in the classroom and have better learning outcomes as a result. Psychology literature also indicates that people who engage in regular physical activity enjoy improved mental health, which can also correlate to improved academic performance. Although a variety of disciplines embrace physical activity, and by association P.E. programs, economists have paid little attention to the subject. Economic research in education has focused on decisions regarding funding for education and the matter of opportunity cost for students, rather than on the specific relationship between P.E. and student outcomes. As such, this paper concludes that to fully understand the topic in an economic framework, there remains a need for a focused investigation of the issue. In order to effectively interrogate the subject, it is necessary to implement a longitudinal study of a newly implemented P.E. program at a school that did not previously have a formal P.E. curriculum.


Bevin Ashenmiller




Gifts to the Undergraduate Research Center

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