Physical Education Grades – More Important Than You Think

 For many of us who have been enjoying our developed world Western diet, albeit with care, the annual physical is not something we look forward to. You need to get more exercise is mentioned in surgeries all over.

While we make up our minds to do better, we look with envy at those amongst us going out, rain or shine, to train for their next marathon. A couple of miles down the road and we’re looking out for the next bus stop. But now it turns out we should have been trying much earlier.

How much earlier? According to Timpka et al in PLoS ONE this week, we should have been hard at it in school physical ed. class, especially if we happen to be female. This is a study from Sweden of 1712 people who were 16 in 1974 – 1976. Their health records from 2003 to 2007 were put under the microscope along with their grades in PE.

The stark result of the study was that poor health in the mid-forties for women correlated with poor physical education grades at school. There wasn’t such a correlation for men, though.

The authors of the study have to do some mental gymnastics. They suggest that there is a “bio-psycho-social” model that explains their findings, tying up poor PE grades with habits like smoking, low fiber diet and putting on too much weight.

Why not with boys? Well, it is suggested that the have a higher habitual activity level. I guess they have playing soccer in mind rather than running after girls.

I think that they should revisit the cohort in another 30 years to ensure that the data don’t change.


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