May 2, 2011

Physical Activity + Academics = Success

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows when schools cut physical education programs, they may be missing an important opportunity to promote learning.

Researchers evaluated a daily physical activity program that incorporated classroom lessons. They implemented the program in an academically low-scoring elementary school in Charleston, S.C. First- through six-graders took part in the program 40 minutes a day, five days a week. Prior to the intervention, the students spent 40 minutes per week in physical education classes.

The first- and second-graders learned developmentally-appropriate movement skills while basic academic skills were reinforced. For example, they traced shapes on the ground while sitting on scooters and hopped through ladders while naming colors on each rung. Students in third through sixth grade had access to exercise equipment with TV monitors. One treadmill had a monitor that played geography lessons as the student ran through the scene.

Results showed students' test scores improved after a year. Specifically, the percentage of students reaching their goal on the state tests increased from 55 percent before the program was initiated to 68.5 percent after the program was initiated.

"These data indicate that when carefully-designed physical education programs are put into place, children's academic achievement does not suffer," Kathryn L. King, M.D., a pediatric resident at the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital, was quoted as saying.

The researchers say the study adds to the growing evidence that exercise is good not only for the body but also for the mind.

SOURCE: The Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Denver, May 1, 2011