Children who move regularly in the classroom do better in school than those who do not. A study in Kansas found that achievement improved on standardized tests in math, science, and reading in classrooms where movement was regularly integrated in the learning process. Youth in Illinois who participated in a before-school activity program improved their performance in math and other subjects.
Studies in California show that fit kids perform better on standardized tests than unfit kids. A large study in Texas showed similar associations between fitness and academic achievement.
In addition, the Texas study showed that fit kids are less likely to miss school and to experience discipline problems.
The research of Dr. Chuck Hillman at the University of Illinois helps provide an explanation for the improved academic performance of active and fit kids.
His research, like the study in Kansas, showed that kids perform better in achievement tests after a single bout of physical activity. His lab studies indicate that a 20- to 30-minute bout of exercise can improve cognition as much as 10 percent.
Using special devices to monitor brain activity, Hillman has shown that exercise improves the processing speed of the brain. Exercise helps students to be attentive and stay attentive.
Exercise also has long-term benefits. Regular exercise has been shown to improve mental functioning as we grow older and may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently prepared a report: The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance.
Based on a review of more than 50 studies, the CDC report concluded that, “there is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores.” The complete CDC report is available at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics.
The bottom line is, fit and active kids are good learners. Schools that promote physical activity during the day, including having quality physical education, will have better learners than schools that don’t. Exercise breaks during the day, including exercise breaks before testing, enhance learning and test performance.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dr. Charles B. “Chuck” Corbin is professor emeritus at Arizona State University, author of more than 90 books on fitness and activity, and was the first chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition Science Board. For more information on the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, go to www.health.gov/paguidelines.