Physical education, health and life-long participation in physical activity
The potential of physical education to contribute to health-enhancing behaviour has long been acknowledged. Indeed, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the role of physical education programmes ‘to maintain, and if possible, improve the health and physique of the children’ was identified by the Board of Education as ‘the primary objective of any course of physical exercise in schools’ (Board of Education 1905: 9). This health focus was emphasised and retained until after the Second World War when attention began to shift more towards self-discovery and the acquisition of physical skills (Sleap 1990). The early 1980s saw a revival of a focus on health as an objective for physical education initially through the growth of the health-related fitness curriculum (Fox 1996). Physical fitness has been defined by the Health Education Authority (HEA) as ‘a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to their ability to perform physical activity’ (HEA 1998a: 2). These attributes include the components of physical fitness identified by Bird (1992) as muscular strength and endurance, the condition of the cardiovascular system, the mobility of the joints and flexibility, and co-ordination. Fox (1996) suggested that by the late 1980s it came to be widely realised that physical fitness has a strong genetic component and that the process of exercise was far more important to the determination of current and future health. Consequently, ‘health related exercise (HRE)’ became the favoured terminology. ‘HRE’ has been defined by the HEA as
physical activity associated with health enhancement and disease prevention. The teaching of health related exercise would typically include the teaching of knowledge, understanding, competence and motor skills, behavioural skills, and the creation of positive attitudes and confidence for life-long participation in physical activity.