Reasons Why Your Kid Is Missing Gym Class

Kids in gym class, and one boy sitting on a bench watching
Alistair Berg / Getty Images

Do you assume that because it's on the schedule at school, your child is regularly attending gym class? Unfortunately, far too many kids actually aren't going to gym class regularly—or even at all. That means they lose out on an important opportunity for physical exercise, along with exposure to sports and fitness activities they might enjoy and a break from the daily academic grind.

School districts in the United States allow students to be exempted from physical education for a variety of reasons, according to the School Health Policies and Practices Study (or SHPPS), which is conducted periodically by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess school health policies.

The problem with these exemptions is that they can diminish the importance of and participation in physical education and physical activity in general.

Common Reasons Why Kids Miss or Are Excused From Gym Class

If your kid, or your school district, is using one of these excuses, it's time to push back so your student gets the healthy activity she needs.

Ideally, both kids and teens should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

Gym Class Isn't Required

While the great majority of school districts make physical education a requirement, some don't, according to the SHPPS report. That could mean hundreds of schools that don't have to offer PE. Is your child's one of them?

Your Child Was Excluded From Gym Class Due to Bad Behavior

Many school districts prohibit, or at least discourage, this practice.

Your Child Has a Physical, Medical, or Intellectual Disability

Certain injuries, such as a concussion or broken bone, require a temporary absence from gym class. If your child has longer-term special needs, he still needs physical activity. He could get it through inclusion in a traditional class; through adapted classes or equipment; and/or with the help of a teaching assistant. This should all be spelled out in your child's 504 plan or individual education plan (IEP).

Gym Class Was Canceled for Test Prep or Other Academic Priorities

The SHPPS found that many of schools allow students to be excused from PE so they can prepare for tests, complete remedial work, or receive instruction in another class.

Your Child Is Taking Online PE

Yes, online PE is an option for some students. And sometimes it's a very good one. Just be wary if it's something your school district is using to mask a lack of resources for traditional gym classes.

Your Child Tested out of Gym Class

Some schools exempt students from physical education if they have achieved "positive, passing, or high physical fitness test scores," according to the SHPPS. This makes sense for some teens who are physically fit and active and will continue to be active even if they aren't attending gym class regularly.

Your Child Participates in Sports or Other School Activities

In some schools, kids can be excused from gym class if they also participate in community or school sports, or even other school activities like band or choir.

Your Child Is Busy With Community Service or Vocational Training

There is only so much time in the school day, and sometimes something has to give. If this exemption applies to your kid, make sure she's getting sufficient physical activity outside of school.

Your Child Doesn't Participate in Gym Class for Religious Reasons

Again, if this is the case in your family, find other ways for your child to be physically active—if not every day, then at least several days a week.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results from the School Health Policies and Practices Study.

By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.