Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 25, 2006

Few High School Students Take PE, Play Sports, Study Finds

Less than half of Ontario’s high school students take physical education classes after Grade 9, and only a fraction are involved in school sports and recreation programs, a new study by a University of Guelph professor reveals.

In fact, student participation in PE classes and intramural and inter-school sports has declined steadily during the past six years, according to the research published in this month’s Journal of Adolescent Health.

“It’s a worrisome finding,” said Guelph Prof. John Dwyer of the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition. A specialist in physical activity promotion, Dwyer conducted the study with Kenneth Allison of the University of Toronto’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

“How often people engage in physical activity is partly influenced by the opportunities available. Yet here we have a situation where schools are offering numerous PE classes and sports and recreation programs, and the majority of students are not participating.”

Dwyer said it’s part of an alarming trend of inactivity among Canadian youth, which is contributing to an epidemic of obesity and overweight status. Since 1981, the percentage of obese children in Canada has tripled, and less than half of all youth are physically active enough for optimal growth and development.

The study included 474 Ontario public and separate secondary schools. Dwyer found that nearly all high schools offer curriculum-based PE classes and that participation is the highest in Grade 9 (98%) — the only grade in which it’s required.

In Grades 10, 11, and 12, the percentage of students who take PE classes falls to 50, 43 and 36 per cent respectively, and those figures are between 9 and 13 per cent lower than they were six years ago.

The study also says that while 97 per cent of schools have an inter-school sports programs, only about 25 per cent of students participate — down 4 per cent from six years ago.

As well, two-thirds of schools have intramural programs, but only 15 per cent of students are involved, a 8 per cent decrease.

“The results suggest that strategies to increase student participation in PE, intramural programs and inter-school sports need to be considered,” Dwyer said. Strategies include ensuring there is a wide range of offerings and that programs are attractive and considered worthwhile.

“Students seem to be opting for what they, or their parents, consider to be more academic courses. But they must start to recognize the importance of physical activity.” The benefits include improved fitness and health, decreased susceptibility to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and high self-esteem and positive social skills, he said.

The study also highlights the overwhelming influence a policy or mandate has on participation in school-based physical activity, and the need to promote sports and recreation opportunities for youth outside of school.

This is the latest in a series of studies Dwyer has done on youth and physical activity. He is also one of 12 people across the country chosen by Health Canada to serve on its external Food Guide Advisory Committee, which is part of the team working to revise Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

Prof. John Dwyer
Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 52210

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982

Email this entry to:

Message (optional):

Powered by FeedBlitz