Active Kids & Learning Ability
It comes as no surprise that kids who get regular exercise feel better than those who are sedentary. It's also commonly known that active kids have more energy during the day sleep better at night, and have fewer behavioural disorders than those who fail to get up and moving each day. These facts have been widely accepted for some time, but recent research finds that there is yet another major benefit to getting kids involved in an ongoing fitness routine -- they become better students.
Study FindingsThe American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducted a study to determine the effects of exercise on academic performance in school aged kids. Researches predicted that students who were enrolled in physical education classes would score better than their less active peers, believing that PE classes would help alleviate boredom and give the students the opportunity to relieve stress, allowing them to better focus on their studies. To their surprise, typical PE classes that were held five days a week and kept the students moderately active for 30 minutes each session had no effect whatsoever on their grades in science, math, world studies, and English. They further found that kids who engaged in vigorous exercise for 20 minutes at least three times weekly did show a marked improvement in grades, making the researchers conclude that traditional PE classes are insufficient in meeting the needs of students.
The above study involved 214 students. All of the kids' activity, both during and outside of school, was charted for half of a school year, breaking up time into 30 minute segments. By the end of the study, researchers found that only students who were active beyond the academic requirement, usually by participating in an extracurricular sport, got enough exercise to have a positive impact on their academic achievement. It is painfully clear that schools today are not prioritizing fitness as highly as they should be.
What Parents Can DoObviously, parents must take the initiative to be sure that their children are getting enough exercise. They can begin by petitioning the administrators of their children's schools to step up the activity level during the day. Kids should be allowed and encouraged to participate at a higher energy level than is currently required, which will benefit them both physically and academically. If children are already spending 30 minutes daily in PE classes, time is not the issue. The change needs to come by ramping up the intensity of their workouts.
Since there are no guarantees that individual schools will rework their PE programs to meet the higher standards, parents should encourage their kids to participate in some form of physical activity on a regular basis, outside of school hours. Joining school or community sponsored athletics is one way, and the suggestion is well received by many students. For those who are not interested in team sports, an active hobby will suffice. Running or cycling after school and on weekends is a simple way for kids to incorporate solid, academic-improving activity into their lives, but any vigorous activity, when done consistently, will make the difference.