For some East Valley kids, gym class will soon mean less sports and more sun salutations.
Yoga, which often includes the salutations, will be offered next year in the Paradise Valley Unified School District along with Pilates workouts, tai chi and bowling.
Teachers hope the new classes will inspire kids to stay physically active outside of school, throughout their lives.
"It’s rather than (teaching) traditional team sports, because many students don’t have the opportunity to participate in team sports later in life," said Pamela Hodges Kulinna, an assistant professor of physical education pedagogy at Arizona State University Polytechnic.
This "lifetime activities" theme is a trend in the physical education world that has become more popular in the last 10 years, she said.
Hodges Kulinna sits on the state’s Mandatory Physical Education Implementation Task Force, made up of educators and lawmakers commissioned by the state Legislature to study physical education in Arizona.
The panel must submit a recommendation for statewide uniform physical education programs by Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, the Paradise Valley schools are moving ahead with their changes.
Next year, high school students will spend one semester in a class called Life Involvement with Fitness and Exercise.
"Students are going to learn about health, healthy eating, nutrition, menus, (and) how to have an exercise routine. So it’s a little more classroom-based than a traditional physical education course," said Jeff Smith, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.
During the other semester, they can choose a survey course on handball, aerobics, dance, swimming and rock climbing, or enroll in yoga, Pilates and tai chi or a bowling course, he said.
"We’re trying to bring in more interesting types of classes (in which) they can learn healthy activities — as opposed to just playing team sports," Smith said. "How many adults do you know that play football?"
Learning yoga at an early age means kids will be more likely to stick with the fitness routines, said Erin Strickstein, who teaches afterschool yoga classes for children at Aztec Elementary School in Scottsdale.
"It can really help people center themselves, especially with testing and the busy schedules of children," she said. "If we can help children go inwardly and calm themselves and help them focus, it will be helpful for them not only in school but for the rest of their lives."
A sampling of physical education activities at other East Valley schools
Scottsdale Unified School District: Total fitness, badminton, volleyball, resistance training, basketball, baseball and softball.
Tempe Union High School District: Net games and racquet sports, weight training, dance performance.
Mesa Unified School District: Pilates, weight training, aerobics and dance.
Chandler Unified School District: Aerobics, weight training, sports medicine classes, lifeguard training.
Gilbert Unified School District: Aerobics and fitness conditioning, racket sports and individual sports that include horseshoes and shuffleboard, team sports, weight training, sports training and sports medicine.