Get Up And Move For Better Academic Performance

Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

America needs to find its way back to a more active daily lifestyle, and this includes more physical activity for our children

We live in a nation that has become more sedentary than ever before. Sure, there are pockets of active and healthy people all across the US, but the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart health issues prove that Americans are not as active as they should be in order to maintain good health.

A good example of this lies in the fact that Americans tend to drive everywhere, even if they are going to a place of business or restaurant only a block away. In other countries, especially in European and other countries, people walk more than they drive. The US cannot say the same.

The lack of exercise now even extends to children. More and more schools cut physical education programs due to a growing focus on academic performance and testing as reported by the Society for Research in Child Development in a recent statement.

Hannah Klein reports for the Society that “Approximately 55.5 million children are enrolled in pre-kindergarten – 12th grade in the United States in a given academic year. According to research presented in Monographs, while there is variation across states and schools, overall, opportunities to engage in physical activity have diminished. Current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines call for children to have a minimum of 60 minutes of intermittent physical activity per day. However, in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 30 percent of children attended a school in which they were offered physical education daily. The majority of students do not engage in any form of planned physical activity during the school week.”

What is particularly distressing about this lack of exercise is that there is a direct link to brain function, thought processes and physical activity. That link shows that daily physical activity promotes better and healthier brain activity. The Society for Research in Child Development identifies several benefits of physical activity and academic success:

• Children who are physically active outperform their inactive peers on classroom activities including achievement tests.

• More active children have larger brain volumes in the basal ganglia and hippocampus, both of which are areas associated with cognitive control of thought, action, behavior, and decision-making.

• Physically active children also boast increased levels of concentration and focus including longer spans of attention.

• Benefits exist for those children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and children with autism if they engage in physical activity.

• Physical activity strengthens brain health and educational success.

As if these reasons were not compelling enough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention additionally identifies that “physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”

If physical activity can benefit brain health as well as body health, why is that children do not experience more during school?

Each of these reasons should inspire all parents, teachers, students and lawmakers to support more physical activity on a daily basis for children. In fact, it should inspire adults to engage in more physical activity as well. After all, who is more inspiring to children than the adults in their lives? If adults engage in physical activity, children will be more likely to follow in their footsteps.

America needs to find its way back to a more active daily lifestyle. This can begin in the formative years of preschool, elementary school and secondary school. Just because physical activity has been temporarily eliminated or diminished does not mean that parents, teachers, students, community members and legislators can’t work together to reinstitute it. The connections between physical activity and good academic learning and success should make us all want to do more to engage our children in physical activity.

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