CEDAR RAPIDS, IA—Kevin Higgins always hated gym class. Like many of his classmates, he questioned the relevance of things like "exercise" and "physical fitness," and wondered if these skills would ever provide any practical, real-world benefits. Though he endured more than 720 hours of gym over 12 years, the 32-year-old accounting clerk said Monday that he has still never used physical education once in his life.
"I don't know why they bothered teaching us all that stuff," said Higgins, who since graduating has not once encountered a situation that required him to move his body at a sustained pace or keep himself in healthy shape. "I mean, come on—when will I ever need to physically exert myself for an extended period of time?"
Higgins is not alone. According to a recent poll, nearly 85 percent of all Americans admitted that, since entering the real world, they have found very few reasons to utilize the concepts they learned in physical education. In fact, most high school graduates claim that despite their gym teachers' insistence that this knowledge would come in handy later in life, they have still never used bending, breaking a sweat, or coordination.
"I remember my gym teacher droning on and on about this thing called 'physical well-being,'" Higgins said. "I still don't even know what that means."
Many educators and high-ranking health officials maintain that it is essential for young adults to learn such valuable skills as participating in activities and interacting with peers, increasing the intake of oxygen and nutrients to the blood, going out of doors, and moving. However, thousands of Americans have nonetheless gone on to lead very successful lives without ever bringing their heart rate over 120 beats per minute.
Erica Burnstrom, a 28-year-old aeronautics engineer living in San Jose, CA, said that abstract concepts such as aerobic activity and raising one's knees above the hips in a rapid "pumping" motion have not added any appreciable value to her day-to-day life.
"I never use any of that stuff, like walking quickly for five minutes," said Burnstrom, who paused from using the Pythagorean identity to solve for the cosine of 71° and 144° in order to speak to reporters. "I understand that my phys-ed teacher needed to know all that stuff because that was his job, but I'm not some specialist who needs to lie flat, lift her torso into a sitting position, and then return to the original position for a living."
"I wish they'd have taught us useful things in gym, like sitting at a computer and ordering things," Burnstrom added.
Many Americans claimed that once they finished high school, skills such as increasing joint mobility and building muscle strength were no longer necessary.
"If something needs to get from one place to another, I can just use my cell phone, or hop in the car. And I know they say that physical education promotes balance, but that's what my cane is for," said Miami, FL resident Keith Monahan, 32. "The only thing I still use from gym class is that occasionally I'll throw on some sweatpants while I'm sitting on the couch watching television. So I guess I learned that."
Omaha insurance salesman William Haylor, 43, said that when his 8-year-old son asked him how to do a chin-up, he realized that he had simply forgotten.
"I know I used to be able to do that, but for the life of me I can't remember," Haylor said. "They're really hard to do. I think that's why I stopped."
"I wish I could help him out," Haylor added. "But what's the point? He's never going to use it anyway."
In response to these findings, many Americans have urged the government to stop wasting millions of dollars on useless physical education programs and start focusing on real problems, such as obesity, arthritis, and chronic back pain.