The Positive Effects of Gym in High School

by Joann MacDonald

    The average teen's bedroom holds many temptations that contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. Computers, televisions, gaming devices and cellphones are all within arm's reach, making it easy to be physically inactive. According to the American Heart Association, physical inactivity is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease. It also increases the risk of obesity, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. The AHA recommends that teens participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. High school gym classes can help teens reach this goal.

    Brain Booster

    According to, exercise benefits the entire body, including the brain. Physical activity causes the body to generate endorphins, chemicals that make people feel happier. Exercise can help with mild depression and low self-esteem, making it a suitable option for anxiety-prone teens. The results of a University of Illinois study suggest that there are also academic benefits to physical education classes. The research, led by kinesiology professor Charles Hillman, suggests that physical activity may improve students’ cognitive functioning and result in better performance on academic achievement tests. The study authors recommended that high school students have 225 minutes of formal physical education each week.


    Aerobic exercise helps the heart to become stronger and more efficient at delivering oxygen through the body. Team sports such as basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey and rowing help teens exercise their hearts and get the one hour of exercise they need each day. Individual activities such as running, swimming, dancing and tennis are also effective heart pumpers. All of these forms of exercise will help your teen to maintain a healthy body weight and lower the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Weight-bearing exercises -- like running and walking -- can also increase bone strength and help to prevent osteoporosis.

    Muscle Strength

    Gym classes expose teens to a variety of exercise activities, many of which increase muscle strength. Strong muscles support joints and help to prevent sports-related injuries. Building muscle also helps your teen to burn more calories even when she's at rest. Gym class favorites such as pull-ups and push-ups are effective at building arm muscles, while running, squats and lunges work the muscles in the legs. Crunches, Pilates and yoga sessions help to create toned abs and a strong core.

    Social Skills

    Team sports and other cooperative gym class activities can help your teen to build social skills and make new friends. While teens are often wrapped up in their own thoughts and worries, being part of a team encourages them to think about others and to root for their teammates' successes. All the members of the team must work together for the benefit of the whole group. Team sports also nurture life skills such as patience and perseverance.

    About the Author

    Joann MacDonald has been a professional writer for 17 years. She holds a degree in English and a Master of Arts in journalism. For more than 14 years, she was a communications specialist for a large public school system. She has also written for numerous magazines in the Greater Toronto Area. She blogs about thrift store shopping, parenting and vegetarian cooking.

    Photo Credits

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