Physical Education

Why study Physical Education?

The Hawaiian term lōkahi means harmony or balance. Academic achievement is critical, but it is equally important to ensure that the mental, social, emotional, and physical aspects of student lives develop and flourish.  

Childhood Obesity in Hawaii

Over one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese (CDC, 2021), with higher levels of obesity prevalence in minority populations and children from low-income families (CDC, 2021).

Graphic: Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. 10 school health components, which surround a healthy and supported child, are surrounded by community supports. The 10 are: Health Education; Nutrition Environment and Services; Employee Wellness; Social and Emotional School Climate; Physical Environment; Health Services; Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services; Community Involvement; Family Engagement; and Physical Education and Physical Activity

Here in Hawaii, 28.9 percent of high school students are overweight or obese (CDC, 2021).  Food is a big part of the culture in Hawai‘i and many family gatherings are “potluck” style in which everyone brings a dish to share and you don’t want to show up empty handed.  With so many delicious food options from a wide variety of cultures readily available, it should not be surprising that childhood obesity is a problem in Hawai‘i.

Why is Obesity an Issue?

Children who are obese have an increased risk of:

Obesity is related to psychological problems such as:

Obesity tracks into adulthood (Singh et al. 2008) as obese children are 75 percent more likely to become obese adults with a significantly higher risk of chronic disease.

How can Physical Activity and Physical Education be a part of the solution?

Daily physical education for all students is recommended by numerous national associations including those listed below:

Physical Activity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children and adolescents do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, the majority of which should come from aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should include moderate-intensity activities such as brisk walking and/or vigorous-intensity activities, such as running.  The CDC further recommends that vigorous physical activities be done 3 times per week.

According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), only 23.1 percent of Hawai‘i high school students reported doing 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily in the past week compared to 23.9 percent of high school students nationally. 

Lack of physical activity among high school students is a problem across the country as just under a quarter of students nationally reported getting their 60 minutes of physical activity seven days a week as recommended by the CDC (CDC, 2021). 

High quality physical education programs can help to increase physical activity as they provide an opportunity for all children to be physically active and improve their overall fitness and wellness.

Core Principles of Physical Education

Physical Literacy

The goal of physical education is to develop physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity. To pursue a lifetime of healthy physical activity, a physically literate individual:

It is essential that every student, regardless of disability, ethnicity, gender, native language, race, religion, or sexual orientation, is entitled to a high-quality physical education program throughout their K-12 educational experience.

Physical education contributes to the success of the whole child and provides students with “a planned, sequential, K-12 standards-based program of curricula and instruction designed to develop motor skills, knowledge and behaviors for active living, physical fitness, sportsmanship, self-efficacy and emotional intelligence” (SHAPE America, 2018b).

Core principles of physical education: Skills, Knowledge, Participation in Physical Activity, Physically Fit, Values Physical Activity & Fitness, Physically Literate Student.

What physical education is NOT

Physical Education is not the same as physical activity. Physical education is:

Physical education programs should provide a significant amount of time for moderate to vigorous physical activity, while also working towards the content standards. During physical education students should be provided with a wide variety of learning experiences related to physical activity options and instructed on how to make positive choices regarding the activity. Cognitive, physical, and social learning occurs through a variety of physical activities that are carefully planned and sequentially taught. 

It is important to note that although recess is an integral and important part of the school day, as it has been shown to enhance participation and learning in the classroom, as well as provides additional opportunities for student decision-making, creativity, and social learning, it is not equivalent to physical education as it does not meet the criteria listed above.

Policy, guidelines

The BOE Policy 103-1 Health and Wellness mandates implementation of DOE Wellness Guidelines in compliance with the provisions of the Local Wellness Policy, under the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public law 111-296). 

The Department’s Wellness guidelines include six that support physical education:

Where is Physical Education headed?

The Future of Physical Education Standards

Physical Education in the HIDOE is defined by the Hawai‘i Content and Performance Standards (HCPS) III for Physical Education K-12. In 2013, SHAPE America updated the National Standards and Grade Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education. The Department is in the process of reviewing and updating the HCPS III to better prepare students to be physically literate individuals so that they are equipped to live healthy, active lifestyles. The breakdown below shows the comparison between the two: 


Standard 1:  Movement Forms. Use motor skills and movement patterns to perform a variety of physical activities.

Standard 2: Cognitive Concepts. Understand movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.

Standard 3: Active Lifestyle. Participate regularly in physical activity.

Standard 4: Physical Fitness. Know ways to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.

SHAPE America National Standards

Standard 1: The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.

Standard 2: The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.

Standard 3: The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.

Standard 4: The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.

Standard 5: The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.

Hawai‘i is unique, unlike any other place in the world. The mild climate, recreational parks and playgrounds, various mountains, trails, lagoons, beaches, and the easily accessible ocean provide a multitude of opportunities for Hawai‘i residents to be physically active year round. 

The National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education (SHAPE America & Human Kinetics, 2014) provides a good illustration of the road to a lifetime of physical activity.  It illustrates what should be occurring at the various grade levels: 

Elementary School

Fundamental skills, knowledge and values

Middle School

Application of skills, knowledge and values

High School

Lifetime activities skills, knowledge and values


Physically active lifestyle

Quality physical education programming should ultimately result in students that choose to live physically active lifestyles both now and later in life by participating in a variety of physical activities such as: 

Physical Education Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics (2022). Policy Opportunities to Increase Physical Activity in Schools. Retrieved from
Aspen Institute (2015). Physical literacy in the United States: A model, strategic plan, and call to action.
Bacha, F., Gidding, S. S. (2016).  Cardiac abnormalities in youth with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Current Diabetes Reports, 16(7), 62. doi: 10.1007/s11892-016-0750-6.
Beck, A. R. (2016). Psychosocial aspects of obesity. NASN School Nurse, 31(1), 23–27.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Health and Human Services. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved from
Cote, A. T., Harris, K. C., Panagiotopoulos, C., et al. (2013). Childhood obesity and cardiovascular dysfunction. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(15), 1309–1319.
Halfon, N., Kandyce, L., & Slusser, W. (2013).  Associations between obesity and comorbid mental health, developmental, and physical health conditions in a nationally representative sample of US children aged 10 to 17. Academic Pediatrics, 13(1), 6–13.
Hillman, C.H., Pontifex, M.B., Castelli, D.M., et al. (2014). Effects of the FITKids randomized controlled trial on executive control and brain function. Pediatrics, 134(4), e1063–71.
Hillman, C.H., Pontifex, M.B., Raine, L.B., Castelli, D.M., Hall, E.E., & Kramer, A.F. (2009).  The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 159(3), 1044–54.
LeBlanc, M.M., Martin, C.K., Han, H., et al (2012). Adiposity and physical activity are not related to academic achievement in school-aged children. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 33(6), 486–94.
Lloyd, L. J., Langley-Evans, S. C., McMullen, S. Childhood obesity and risk of the adult metabolic syndrome: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity, 36(1), 1–11.
Mohanan, S., Tapp, H., McWilliams, A., & Dulin, M. (2014). Obesity and asthma: pathophysiology and implications for diagnosis and management in primary care. Experimental Biology & Medicine, 239(11), 1531–40.
Morrison, K. M., Shin, S., & Tarnopolsky, M., et al. (2015). Association of depression and health related quality of life with body composition in children and youth with obesity. Journal of Affective Disorders, 172, 18–23.
Narang, I., & Mathew, J. L. (2012). Childhood obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. doi: 10.1155/2012/134202.
Pollock, N. K. (2015). Childhood obesity, bone development, and cardiometabolic risk factors. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 410, 52-63. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2015.03.016.
Singh, A., Mulder, C., Twisk, J., Van Mechelen, W., Chinapaw, M., 2008. Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: A systematic review of the literature. Obesity Reviews, 9(5), 474–488.
Society of Health and Physical Educators [SHAPE] America (2018a). What is physical education? Retrieved from
Society of Health and Physical Educators [SHAPE] America (2018b). What is physical education?
Stevens, T. A., To, Y., Stevenson, S. J., & Lochbaum, M. R. (2008). The importance of physical activity and physical education in the prediction of academic achievement. Journal of Sport Behavior, 31(4), 368–88.