Why Is Gym Important?

School gym programs don't come cheap -- CBS News reported in 2009 that it costs approximately $500,000 to start a physical education program -- so it comes as no surprise that only 6 percent of American schools offered daily gym classes as of 2009. But despite the costs, gym offers students huge benefits. From fighting obesity to improving academic performance, gym is essential for the health and well-being of students.

Fighting Obesity

According to medical doctor Joseph A. Zenel, "physical education in schools is one of the most important ways to help fight childhood obesity." Gym class helps keep students active, which can avert unhealthy weight gains. For this reason, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that elementary school students have at least 90 minutes of gym per week and almost four hours a week for middle and high school students.

Improving Grades

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Gym class isn't just about being healthy and physically active. WebMD reports that a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review of 50 studies over a 23-year period found that kids who are physically active do better academically than students who are not. This is because physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which may increase growth in the brain's learning and memory center. According to WebMD, physical activity may also improve concentration and behavior.

Developing Healthy Habits

Gym class gets students physically active and can keep them fit while they're in school -- but it can also have longer-lasting effects. Gym class can expose students to healthy activities and sports that they may enjoy for the rest of their lives. According to Zenel, "if we can expose kids to different activities when they're young, it's more likely they'll stay physically active as adults."

Developing Skills

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Gym class provides an environment where students can develop a variety of skills. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, gym gives students an opportunity to develop leadership skills and can influence moral development. Because it requires students to work together, it can build social skills and teamwork abilities. Gym also introduces students to goal-setting and can instill self-discipline.