No More Kickball and Dodge Ball?

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Step aerobics, tennis, yoga, swimming, cross-training -- they sound like activities you'd find at a fancy gym, or even a country club.

But believe it or not, they're all activities taking place in high school physical education classes across the country. It's the new face of physical education, which is not just about kickball and dodge ball anymore.

At Westview High School in Poway, Calif., a suburb of San Diego, students are exposed to sports and exercise with the hope they'll find something they want to participate in for life. Traditional physical education classes focused on playing sports. The new P.E. focuses on leading a healthy lifestyle.

Paige Metz, one of Westview's physical education teachers, tries to get kids excited about leading active lives.

"We've reached a time in society where kids aren't just going outside and playing," she says. "There are things that they've got to do that they're fitting into their schedule. And at the same time, they've lost the ability to just go out and play and to be kids."

Westview and schools nationwide are turning their physical education curriculums away from traditional team sports to encourage everyone to be active -- not just those who are more athletically inclined.

Metz and her fellow phys ed teachers work hard to give their students a wider variety of activities, with the hope that everyone will find something they enjoy.

One of Metz's activities is a series of cross training exercises aimed at getting her students to do 18 minutes of continuous cardiovascular activity. The students rotate through various stations, including jumping rope 50 times, climbing up and down stairs around the football field, running backwards and sidestepping quickly up a ramp.

By varying the activity, they may not realize that they're actually getting a full workout.

Her students seem to be responding. They're having fun, yelling encouragement at each other and working up a good sweat.

Ninth grader Nelson Seilhan says he enjoys actually getting a good workout.

"In grade school, yeah, we played some games," he says. "But we didn't really get into that target heart-rate zone at all."

Yes, a ninth grader is talking about his "target heart-rate zone." Something must be sinking in.

The challenge Metz and her colleagues face is an important one. Their students are in high school, which tends to be the last time in their lives many kids have physical education class or play on a sports team. By offering yoga, Pilates, Filipino dance, pool exercises, aerobics and other activities, kids may find something they enjoy enough to stick with as they move onto college and adulthood.

"I think you really empower kids to make healthy choices," says Metz. "When they leave your class, they're not just leaving in better shape than when they came in. They're leaving with strategies [so] that they can maintain a healthy lifestyle from now, for the rest of their lives."

Hope for Obese America?

These freshly inspired physical education courses have arrived at a critical time. Over the last 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the number of overweight children has doubled, and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled.

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