For many adults, the best memory of high school gym class is when they didn’t have to take it anymore. Others might look back at physical education, or PE, as the glory days when they were often the first to be picked for any sport or activity.
These childhood memories, a recent study has found, may influence just how sedentary we become as adults.
Researchers at Iowa State University quizzed more than a thousand people between the ages of 18 and 45 about their best and worst memories of PE class. In an online survey, the group, composed of men and women, also were asked about their current levels of exercise and sedentary behavior.
The researchers found that those PE memories had some degree of influence on a person’s self-perception and their level of physical activity as adults. They said, for example, that rarely being chosen first for a group activity in gym class appeared to be strongly related to the time spent sitting on weekdays and weekends as adults.
A nearly equal number of best and worst memories were recounted. Among those reporting negative feelings, 34 percent remembered being embarrassed in class and 17 percent reporting being bullied. Among those with positive feelings, 56 percent pointed to enjoyable class activities.
Interestingly, 7 percent tied their positive feelings of gym class to their not having to take it any longer or skipping the class.
Researchers caution that one bad gym class experience doesn’t automatically set you on the track to becoming a couch potato. But if improvements in the PE experience resulted in even a small increase in exercise, researchers say, millions of people could reap health benefits.