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  • Writer's pictureGrace Yu

How Fitness Changes Lives: Why Phys. Ed Courses are for Everyone

“I feel I’ve obtained a growth mindset and my perspective on living life has changed to a much more positive note,” says Jess Lee after completing her fourth quadmester fitness course in grade 11.

Here at Earl of March, there is a lot of pride when it comes to our athletic programs. We have talented athletes from every sport that represent our school. But let’s face it, not everyone has the time or passion to be a competitive athlete or even play on a school team. While many may have the intention of being active, the reality is that most students do not have the right tools. Over the last year in social isolation, access to resources and motivation is even more of a challenge.

Photo credit: Mrs.D’Alessandro

Despite the obstacles, the benefits of exercise remain unchanged. Regular exercise is scientifically proven to prime the brain for learning, boost self-confidence, reduce the risk of chronic disease, the list goes on. Luckily, Earl has outstanding facilities, knowledgeable physical educators who facilitate fitness and physical education courses that provide students with the opportunity to work on five pillars: Mindset, Nutrition, Training, Sleep & Recovery. These courses not only develop healthy habits, they teach you life skills and give you the knowledge and confidence to join reactionary activities, workout on your own, or at a gym.

In spite of their names, personal fitness and physical education courses are not all about working out. Students make connections, explore the fundamentals of nutrition and deepen their understanding of social justice issues in sport by studying inequities in sport. Additionally, healthy habits are put into practice like meditation and yoga. It seems as though every aspect of wellness is covered from strength training to mental health. “It really sets you up -- it’s a course for life,” is how Ms. Port, Earl of March’s own Head of Health & Physical Education, describes her personal fitness course in a nutshell.

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Jad Naaman has been active his entire life and has been taking fitness class since grade 10. “I’m currently about to graduate and I am very grateful I was able to take fitness through my few years of high school,” he adds, “It’s a great course to take no matter what your fitness experience is as everyone is there to learn and improve as people.” The graduate was even motivated to start his own fitness Instagram account where he shares weightlifting exercises and tips. Next year, Jad will be studying human kinetics at the University of Ottawa

While it is arguably one of the most beneficial courses for the student body, physical education courses are classified as open level, marked with an ‘O’ at the end of the course code. Unlike dance, visual arts, drama, which are all mixed-level courses, open course grades are not counted towards averages when applying to post-secondary schools. Ms. Port begs the question, “What does that tell our kids?” The open course level insinuates that physical health and well-being hold less value when compared to other courses. Just like the skills in drama can be transferred to business degrees, the lifelong skills learned in physical education can be applied to kinesiology, nursing,biology degrees and more importantly - life!

There is also a common misconception that in order to take a fitness course, students must be “fit”. The emphasis is on the basics of living an active lifestyle, so there is no prior experience required. Addressing this preconceived notion, Ms. Port states quite simply, “You need nothing.” The Earl Director of Athletics asserts that the only requirement is an open mindset, as students start and progress through their own personal journeys.

Photo credit: Aenea Olsen

Although mainly virtual this year, students were still able to feel a sense of community through live Google Meet workouts. These social connections have been more important than ever during this emotional rollercoaster of a year. Finally transitioning into the summer, there will be plenty of time to reconnect and recharge. With that in mind, maybe join a virtual workout class with the bounty of resources that are now available online, or take a family hike to enjoy the outdoors.

In hopes of an in-person 2021-2022 school year, something to take into consideration is making room for a fitness-related course. If not, finding opportunities outside the classroom are abundant! Earl is hopeful that intramurals, open gyms, & sports events will pick back up in the fall.

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