Upgrading Gym Class

Less cutthroat dodgeball, more focus on fitness for life

If you were one of the many, many kids for whom gym class at school was a living hell, you’ll jump for joy (assuming the lifelong loathing of exercise those classes instilled in you hasn’t made that impossible) at the new day that’s dawning on athletic fields. In an attempt to curb the nation’s dizzying childhood obesity rate, smart gym teachers are focusing less on stress-inducing competitive events like dodgeball and rope-climbing and more on … fitness. (What a concept! Nobody gets picked last!)

Teens are being equipped with heart-rate monitors, pushed to hit performance goals, and taught out-of-the-box team sports like Ultimate Frisbee. The results are calculable, and data show the approach is working—though schools are having a hard time purchasing equipment, with current budget crunches at play.

As the rare bird who actually loved gym despite having some, um, physical challenges—teachers used to make me demonstrate stuff so they could say, “Hey, if she can do it, you can!”—I know I’d have missed those killer rounds of gym-class softball, basketball and volleyball (but not the bloomers. Never the bloomers.) In the name of lifelong health for all, though, I gotta say, the new approach makes sense.