According to the Tennessee Department of Education, physical education is a field in schools that helps prepare students to maintain physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Most high schools throughout the United States have physical education programs, and many people simply refer to it as "gym class."
Physical education as an institution in the United States started around 1820. It was mostly a combination of gymnastics and hygiene training. Colleges mostly focused on track and field and other sports at this time. The Young Men’s Christian Association opened in 1851 and focused on physical fitness and educating people on staying healthy. Over the next 100 years, the institution continued to grow until there were more than 400 institutions in the United States that featured physical education majors in 1950. This interest fell off during the next years until 1970-1980, when a recession caused physical education programs to be cut. In more recent times, there has been an increasing focus on maintaining basic physical standards for young people in physical education classes. Many modern programs feature encouragement for young people to reach certain standards in terms of the number of push-ups and sit-ups they can do and how fast they can run.