Sports vs PE vs Physical Activity


  • When it comes to the nation’s health and physical activity, there is much to talk about – especially during these uncertain and unprecedented times.

Some of the statistics out there are staggering and worrying, including 65% of adults can be classed as overweight or obese; and shockingly…

When the nation’s health is most at risk, we should be encouraging physical activity more than ever, encouraging our children to become more active and play games or play sports inside and outside of school time. Why are 73% of PE teachers (according to the Youth Sport Trust) noticing low levels of physical fitness among pupils returning to school after lockdown!

An interesting telegraph article written by PE professional Jamie Johnston, talks about how he thinks we should be focusing more on ‘courage’ and not just competition, which in this current climate where interschool competition is in most cases a logistical nightmare makes complete sense!


We often talk about the impact physical activity has on educational outcomes, attention spans and behaviour, so why is there still such a big focus on sporting competition, immediately isolating a proportion of children who aren’t big into sports.

This conversation begins to link into my last blog on Joe Wicks VS PE, which highlighted the difference between PE and Physical Activity and brings in a new dynamic….PE vs Physical Activity Vs Sports.

Check out the Joe Wicks VS PE blog if you haven’t already read it!

It is undeniable that Joe Wicks is doing a great job at helping to keep the nation, and more importantly children active while we are in lockdown.

‘Physical Activity in basic terms is a movement that requires the body’s energy. And it does encompass a range of activities, from gardening, cycling, walking, sports, dance, yoga, etc. so to an extent, PE is a form of physical activity.

Physical Education is so much more than just physical activity. It is structured and planned and works towards agreed outcomes and is more than just raising your heart rate and taking part in physical activity. It is also about learning – about yourself, your body, movement, nutrition and even the

anatomy and psychology around sports and physical exercise as you get further through the curriculum. PE is all about ‘learning to move’ and becoming physically competent at a defined task. It’s about ‘moving to learn’ and becoming more aware, gaining a greater understanding beyond physical activity, like growth mindset, wellbeing, teamwork and problem-solving. The context for the learning is physical activity, with children experiencing a broad range of activities, including sport and dance’.

School Sport tends to be extracurricular but facilitated by school with the context of learning being physical activity. The ‘school sport’ programme has the potential to develop and broaden foundation learning that takes place in physical education. It also forms a vital link with ‘community sport and activity’.

I am a huge advocate of School Sport – growing up I had nothing but positive experiences playing sports at school and taking part in as many sessions as I could fit in my week.

But for every one of me, there were always a handful of others who would do anything to avoid it! They would either skip the class, “forget” their PE kit, or have a forged handwritten note from home. I was lucky enough to be supported and encouraged to play sport as a child, and Sport England’s research gives us insight into the pivotal role parents /caregivers play in shaping a child’s attitude and behaviour, which is why they are invested in tackling this with their Families Fund.

Participating in School Sport gave me a lifelong enjoyment of competitive sport, exercise, and activity, and my positive experiences have transferred into the way I have encouraged and introduced sport and activity to my own children.

So how do we engage with students resistant to being active? Do we change attitudes? Do we target parents to try and change attitudes towards physical activity? It is all very difficult, each person is going to be different and need a varied approach, making it a challenging task.  To start, I think this is perhaps where physical activity comes in over School sport. School sport is all about being competitive, winning games, and can be extremely pressurised, which is an unnecessary pressure; and if you are not an avid sports player, this can be powerfully off-putting.

Healthy competition is good but with the state of the nation’s health we surely need a more rounded approach to engage with everyone, especially our children! Physical activity is the opportunity to take part in several different things – anything that can get your heart rate up! Different ways to engage could be anything – dance, walking, yoga, football or

even getting on a PlayStation move or Wii could be examples of physical activity, providing you are moving while you are playing of course!

Let’s remember the official advice is for children to aim for 60 minutes of exercise a day and schools should facilitate a minimum of 30 minutes of access! So… let us get as many students and schools as active as possible! Encouraging them to try new things, give them the opportunity to be physically active. Be creative! It should not just be down to the PE Teacher or Co-ordinator, yes, PE Teachers will be great influencers but we need to change attitudes towards physical activity full stop! I am sure there will be so many great examples of this throughout the industry, but why couldn’t we involve more physical activity in subjects such as Maths, Science or even English; by being creative and getting pupils mobile while they learn, rather than sat in a chair in front of a whiteboard!!

So with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind and as the article I read suggests, with this particular lull of school sport let’s focus on collaboration, participation, and getting more people active – moving through whatever means necessary. And it is important to remember that…

you don’t have to be sporty to get active!

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