ACTIVE IN SCHOOL
Exercise linked to academic success
Exercise linked to academic success
For some of us well past our grade school days, P.E., or physical education, was regarded as a time for dodgeball games and gossiping on the bleachers. Physical activity has long since been a part of the school day, but research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an enlightening perspective of the benefits that exercise has for school-aged children. The physical health benefits of exercising are some of the more well-known advantages, but according to the CDC, physical activity can improve on cognitive processes, attitude, behavioral health and academic performance.
It is every parent’s hope that their child will be able to live up to his or her potential, and that requires having the support and resources available to each and every student. While adequate education and learning tools are necessary in fostering academic success, participating in regular and consistent physical exercise helps improve the likelihood of that success as well. According to the CDC, while physical activity of at least 60 minutes every day offers benefits for building strength and endurance, improving muscle and bone health, and helps to control weight, it can also aid in academic achievement and grade scoring. Exercise for school-aged children improves upon factors that influence academic success and performance such as attentiveness and concentration in the classroom.
Additionally, school performance is also benefited by physical exercise by way of cognitive skills such as memory and verbal ability. A study by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign titled “Aerobic fitness is Associated with Greater White Matter Integrity in Children” states that aerobic fitness plays a positive role in children’s brain and cognitive health by showing that children who performed at higher aerobic fitness had greater white matter microstructure – which affects how the brain learns and functions. The study went on to find aerobic exercise improved brain connectivity and that children who had higher aerobic fitness outperformed their less fit peers on tasks involving cognitive control.
The CDC went on to find a positive relationship between physical activity and academic success due to the improvement in concentration and self-esteem. These factors were also related to a student’s academic behavior, which is stated to be benefited as well by positively influencing classroom conduct. Furthermore, there was no significant data that the school-based physical education and activity distracted or detracted from academic performance.
For elementary school-aged students, a study conducted by the Oregon State University titled “Brain Breaks: Physical Activity in the Classroom for Elementary School Children” found 30 minutes of a “brain break” outside of normal recess scheduled times has a positive effect on students’ behaviors in the classroom. The break included physical activity that focused on strength, endurance, relaxation and stretching, all that can be done in the classroom and instructed by a DVD.
According to the CDC, there is nationwide deficit of elementary school programs implementing the required 150 minutes per week of physical education and recess periods.
The advantages of participating in physical education in school are multifaceted in that they positively affect both a student’s physical and mental health, as well as their academic performance leading to a greater likelihood for success. Unfortunately, the CDC reports in 2013, less than half of high school students attended their physical education classes in an average week. The nationwide deficit of
physical education standards in elementary schools also calls for a need in awareness and understanding of the benefits.
The CDC website offers a variety of resources and tools for school programs to implement guidelines for physical activity programs and healthier lifestyles. The toolkits offer a comprehensive understanding in developing, implementing and encouraging the nationallyrecommended 60-minutes of physical activity each day. The goals of the toolkits are to either help in establishing a program or to improve upon those that already exist. For a look at these toolkits and other resources for improving physical exercise in schools, as well as a full list of benefi ts and studies, go to www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.