Bone Strength—A Hidden Benefit of Exercise for Children

I have spent a lot of time looking through the physical education content standards from my home state, California. These standards focus on three categories of physical development in the various grade levels:

  • Improved aerobic capacity
  • Improved muscular strength
  • Increased flexibility

Curiously, I have yet to find a set of state standards that mentions bone-strength development.

Bone strengthening does appear, however, in the official fitness guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a branch of the Federal  Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC’s recommendations for children’s exercise include three categories of emphasis:

  • Aerobic Activity
  • Muscle Strengthening
  • Bone Strengthening

Building bone strength is an important benefit of exercise for children. When children engage in movements in which their feet strike the ground, the impact stresses the leg. Over time, this stress causes the bones of the legs to thicken and strengthen. Two great exercises that help build bone strength are running and jumping rope.

Although state PE standards fail to mention bone strengthening, K–5 classroom teachers should remember this “hidden” benefit as they encourage children to exercise. Share information about building bone strength with your students to give them a deeper understanding of why physical activity is good.

Most of the activities in the PE by Design program feature running exercises that improve bone strength. To purchase the PE by Design book, click here.


SHAPE America Standards—A Good Foundation for K–5 PE Programs

When K–5 classroom teachers begin teaching PE, they’re likely to have many questions: What activities should I do with my students? What type of equipment should I use? What guidelines should I follow? These are challenging questions for classroom teachers who have no formal fitness background and no formal training in how to teach PE. Although most states have PE content standards designed to guide teachers, these standards can be overwhelming for classroom teachers. State PE standards tend to be very detailed. (In California, where I live, there are approximately 50–60 standards per grade level.)

I suggest a different approach for K–5 classroom teachers. SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America is the most prominent PE advocacy group in the United States. SHAPE America has produced a set of 5 physical education standards. These standards are quite broad. They do not describe specific physical education activities, but they do capture the essence of what PE in our schools should emphasize—movement, creative expression, and developing a life-long appreciation for exercise.

In one area, SHAPE America’s standards may be too much for classroom teachers. SHAPE emphasizes gauging students’ progress over time. For example, Standard 1 states “The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.” That word, demonstrates, is a call for periodic assessments. SHAPE America wants teachers to be able to prove that the standards have been met.

Asking K–5 classroom teachers to assess their students periodically may be unrealistic. Ideally, assessments would show progress, but classroom teachers have so much else to do, they’re unlikely to find time for multiple assessments.

If you are struggling with basic questions as you start creating your PE program, check out SHAPE America’s national standards. They will help you build a good ideological foundation for your program. Click here to view the standards.

PE Class-Management Tip: Praise Well-Behaved Students

Managing students outside the classroom can be daunting for K–5 classroom teachers who are planning a PE program. I will periodically offer PE class-management tips in this blog.

In the outdoor PE setting, students are energized and not always willing to follow directions. One way to encourage good behavior is to remove the incentives to misbehave. Rather than empowering students who seek attention through misbehavior, create an atmosphere where there are opportunities to gain attention through positive behavior. Praise students frequently. Students love receiving positive attention. Whether it’s a student who has good form on a push-up, or a pair of students who settle a dispute fairly in a game, point out those students whose actions contribute positively to the class.

For more tips, check out my book, PE by Design, which features a 15-page section on class-management strategies. To purchase the book, click here.