Over the last couple of decades, budget cuts have hit our physical education classes in public schools hard. The idea is that cutting these programs will leave more time for academic studies, and therefore, improve test scores.
Unfortunately, this short-sighted practice has had the opposite effect. It’s crippling our students; not only physically, but also academically.
Evidence Shows that Activity is Beneficial to Grades
The fact that exercise improves health isn’t something most people bother disputing. It’s obvious that physical activity protects against common health problems plaguing Americans: anything from high blood pressure to gum disease. However, an oft-overlooked benefit of exercise is its ability to improve cognition. Here are a few select examples from a large body of academic and professional studies that show the mental benefits of exercise for students:
- Think your child is fine because he or she isn’t overweight? Well, they could still be at a disadvantage from lack of physical activity. A study published in the Journal of American Pediatrics in August of 2013 tested children on both fitness tests and academic standardized tests. It was found that regardless of size, those who scored higher in fitness also scored higher in academics.
- Elementary-aged children with a physical education program integrated into their classrooms scored significantly higher over a four-month period on tests measuring fluid intelligence.
- One study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine found that children who were given 10 minutes to run around before a test scored higher in said test than children who were told to sit quietly for 10 minutes beforehand.
- One study of after-school programs found that periods of sustained play could improve children’s ability to memorize information and block out distractions while learning.
- A study at Dartmouth, published in Frontiers of Psychology in June 2014 found that it only took 12 minutes of exercise for children to improve in reading comprehension and visual focus.
Increasing a student’s physical activity isn’t just good for health, it’s good for grades! Schools and parents that understand these principles and support physical education and fitness programs will be more apt to see positive results in a students physical, mental, and academic well being.