Fitness-based PE Program


Over the years there has been a growing trend towards fitness-based PE programs instead of the more traditional sports based curriculum (Zientarski 2015). Traditional sports-based PE programs do provide opportunities to teach students about competition, sportsmanship, rules and fairness, as well as specific motor skills.

However, sports-based PE programs do have their limitations. Consider that after the age of 26, only 5% of Americans engage in group sports as their form of exercise (Zientarski 2015). The goal of Fitness-based PE programs is to instill lifelong skills promoting health and wellness. Although not conclusive, it appears that the greater number of fitness components improved (cardiovascular endurance, strength, muscular endurance, muscular power), as addressed in a fitness-based PE programs, the greater likelihood of successful academic performance (Kohl & Cook 2013).

A hybrid approach may be striving for a balance between the sports-based and fitness-based curriculums. However, with younger children, there should be an emphasis of discovery and developing gross motor skills through games and play (eg: running, jumping, skipping, throwing, catching, rolling, etc). Also see the Role and Importance of Risky Play.

The Fitness Based Approach to PE

Fitness Testing & Assessment

  • Establish benchmarks
  • Assess strengths & weaknesses
  • Possible fitness components for testing
    • Anthropometrics
      • Height & Weight
      • Waist and Hip Circumference
      • Body Composition
    • Cardiovascular & Cardio Endurance
    • Strength & Muscular Endurance
    • Power
    • Speed
    • Mobility & Flexibility
    • Stability
    • Balance
    • Posture

Establish Goals

Exercise Programing

  • Program design using an evidence-based approach
  • Principles
    • ACSM Guidelines
    • Adaptation of Classic Periodization
    • Exercise Selection
    • Frequency, Intensity, Duration
    • Progression and Variation
  • Circumstances
    • Consider available time
    • Consider available facilities and equipment 
    • Understand teacher's areas of expertise and teaching philosophies
  • General Conditioning
    • Key fitness components
    • Strength training
      • Relevant to most fitness goals
        • Strength
        • Muscular Endurance
        • Power
        • Speed
        • Agility
        • Injury prevention (prehab)
        • Posture
        • Body Composition
          • Maintain muscle
          • Increase metabolism
      • 5 Basic Movements
        • Designed to exercise most major muscle groups
        • Scalable to accommodate most any strength level
        • Progressive so improvements can be sustained
      • Choose Type of resistance training
      • Type of resistance training ad exercise selection 
        • Available equipment
        • Students age and maturity
        • Teachers’ training
    • Cardio training
      • Begins with a progressive general conditioning period
      • Progresses to address students’ specific goals
        • Health
        • Cardiovascular Fitness
        • Calorie Expenditure or Weight Management
        • Sports Performance
        • Recreation
      • Varies and progresses in intensity & duration
        • facilitates recovery and sustained progression
  • Specific Conditioning
    • Introduce performance related fitness components and other fitness related activities later after the general conditioning period (if pertaining to goals)
    • Continue base training
      • Strength and Cardio program
    • Performance Related Fitness Components
      • Power training
      • Speed training
      • Agility training

Execute & Reassess

  • Execute program
  • Reassess progress
  • Reassess goals
  • Implement alterations to program

Other Fitness Related Activities

  • Consider exploring other fitness related activities
    • Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi
    • Swimming, Rowing, Cycling, etc
    • Rope Climbing, Wall Climbing
    • Tumbling, MovNat, Parkour fundamentals


Kohl HW III, Cook HD; National Academy of Sciences (2013). Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance. Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US).

Zientarski P (2015) Want Smarter, Healthier Kids? Try Physical Education! TedxBend, YouTube.

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