The primary aims of physical education have varied, based on the needs of the time and place. Most modern schools' goal is to provide students with knowledge, skills, capacities, values, and the enthusiasm to maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. Activities included in the program are designed to promote physical fitness, to develop motor skills, to instill knowledge and understanding of rules, concepts, and strategies. Students learn to either work as part of a team, or as individuals, in a wide variety of competitive activities. In all states in the United States, physical education is offered to students from grades K through 12. Most states do require physical education from 6th through 9th grades and offer "elective" physical education classes from 10th through 12th grades.
Physical Education trends have developed recently to incorporate more activities into P.E. Introducing students to lifetime activities like bowling, walking/hiking, or frisbee at an early age can help students develop good activity habits that will carry over into adulthood. Teaching non-traditional sports to students may also provide the necessary motivation for students to increase their activity, and can help students learn about different cultures. For example, while teaching a unit about Lacrosse (in say Arizona), students can also learn a little bit about the Native American cultures of the Northeast and Eastern Canada, where Lacrosse originated. Teaching non-traditional (or non-native) sports provides a great opportunity to integrate academic concepts from other subjects as well (social studies from the example above), which is required of every P.E. teacher these days.
There are also many different models that have been created as of late that change the face of P.E. One example of this is the Health Club Model. Teaching with this model is very different from the "Organized Recess" of 20 or 30 years ago. Spun off the the boom in the health club industry, a P.E. class provides many of the same "classes" that are found at a health club. Monday a student could be doing kickboxing, the next day is yoga, Wednesday the student is doing Spinning. This type of program provides a great variety of activity for students, a lot a high intensity exercise, and helps introduce these activities for use later in life. The Sports Education model is another example of a new model were the class is run like a sports league, with students taking the role of coaches, scorers, referees, and reporters as well as players. Using this model, students practice management skills, mathematic skills, and writing skill all while learning sports skills and being active.
Another trend is the incorporation of Health and Nutrition to the physical education curriculum. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required that all school districts with a federally funded school meal program develop wellness policies that address nutrition and physical activity. While teaching students sports and movement skills, P.E. teachers are now incorporating short health and nutrition lessons into the curriculum. This is more prevalent at the elementary school level, where students do not have a specific Health class.