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OpinionEditorial

Activities for life make a healthy lesson in gym class

The limits of traditional physical education have been long apparent to educators and anyone stuck in a low-energy and forced floor-hockey match.

Raheem Walker, 17, a senior at Longwood High

Raheem Walker, 17, a senior at Longwood High School in Middle Island, completes an agility course during a mountain biking class on Oct. 31, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

Maybe it was a fear of chaotic dodgeball games, the always paralyzing humiliation of being picked last, or an inability to care one way or another if your team won: Perhaps gym class was not for you.

The limits of traditional physical education have been long apparent to educators and anyone stuck in a low-energy and forced floor-hockey match. The athletically gifted among us get a chance to strut their stuff while those without bulging muscles or hand-eye coordination angle to the sidelines to become spectators. Maybe that just makes for a less-than-useful 45 minutes before math. But students who come away from the experience down on learning a healthy, active lifestyle could be doomed to become unhealthy and disengaged adults.

Some schools have smartly discarded rote reliance on team sports for physical education and moved toward fitness skills that can last a lifetime. On Long Island, some school districts have even incorporated fly-fishing or mountain biking. That’s worth applauding as much as any third-period touchdown in flag football. Traditional team games are important staples to teach sportsmanship and cooperation, but we’re not all going to be able to hit home runs into our 60s. Teaching alternative skills such as yoga or orienteering can keep students interested, and provide paths to enduring and vigorous exercise.

Plus, students who are taught to hike, kayak, swim or explore the outdoors have that much more to enjoy of Long Island’s bountiful natural resources. There are plenty of options beyond jogging. Expanding the athletic palette is a well-earned A no matter how you grade it.

— The editorial board

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