Academics and Physical Activity in Schools
Physical activity has academic benefits as well. The California Department of Education looked at students’ health fitness scores on the FITNESSGRAM and compared them to the student scores on standardized testing in math and language arts. They found that fit kids “scored twice as well on academic tests as those that were unfit.” The second year the CDE controlled for upper and lower income brackets and while upper income fit students scored higher than lower income students overall, the premise still held true. Students who were more fit performed better academically.
According to SPARK author, John Ratey, MD we should “think of exercise as medication.” We know that exercise helps with executive functions like sequencing, memory, and prioritizing which contribute to necessary skills for success in school and life. Put simply, physical activity in school primes the brain for learning. Another familiar refrain from some students is “why try? I already know I can’t do it.” The defeatist attitude or inability to push past previous failures is prevalent in far too many students.
Physical activity in school is a remedy for that too. Physical activity produces endorphins (chemicals in the brain) that regulate mood, pleasure and pain. An elevated mood can contribute to an “I can do it” attitude which goes a long way as students approach new tasks as challenges not obstacles Students spend over half of their day in school. Physical education should teach them how to integrate physical activity into their day both now and later in life.
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