Physical education became a subject matter in schools (in the form of German and Swedish gymnastics) at the beginning of the 19th century (Hackensmith, 1966). Its role in human health was quickly recognized. By the turn of the 20th century, personal hygiene and exercise for bodily health were incorporated in the physical education curriculum as the major learning outcomes for students (Weston, 1962). The exclusive focus on health, however, was criticized by educator Thomas Wood (1913; Wood and Cassidy, 1930) as too narrow and detrimental to the development of the whole child. The education community subsequently adopted Wood’s inclusive approach to physical education whereby fundamental movements and physical skills for games and sports were incorporated as the major instructional content. During the past 15 years, physical education has once again evolved to connect body movement to its consequences (e.g., physical activity and health), teaching children the science of healthful living and skills needed for an active lifestyle (NASPE, 2004).
Sallis and McKenzie (1991) published a landmark paper stating that physical education is education content using a “comprehensive but physically active approach that involves teaching social, cognitive, and physical skills, and achieving other goals through movement” (p. 126). This perspective is also emphasized by Siedentop (2009), who states that physical education is education through the physical. Sallis and McKenzie (1991) stress two main goals of physical education: (1) prepare children and youth for a lifetime of physical activity and (2) engage them in physical activity during physical education. These goals represent the lifelong benefits of health-enhancing physical education that enable children and adolescents to become active adults throughout their lives.
Physical Education as Part of Education
In institutionalized education, the main goal has been developing children’s cognitive capacity in the sense of learning knowledge in academic disciplines. This goal dictates a learning environment in which seated learning behavior is considered appropriate and effective and is rewarded. Physical education as part of education provides the only opportunity for all children to learn about physical movement and engage in physical activity. As noted, its goal and place in institutionalized education have changed from the original focus on teaching hygiene and health to educating children about the many forms and benefits of physical movement, including sports and exercise. With a dramatic expansion of content beyond the original Swedish and German gymnastics programs of the 19th century, physical education has evolved to become a content