Amid Cutbacks, Do School Kids Need Physical Activity to Learn Better?

Is it really any surprise that if kids don’t get any physical activity during the school day, their learning is compromised? Just think about it: As adults, we need breaks throughout the day and it is recommended that we get at least five minutes of activity each hour. So why are the kids not receiving the same treatment?

I know that times and budgets in Michigan schools are especially tough with cutbacks, and unfortunately gym class is one of the sacrifices in a lot of districts. But why not be creative in each classroom to try and incorporate some type of physical activity for the kids a little bit each hour?

I am not a teacher so this may be totally out of the question, but to me, it seems like it would be easy for the teachers to allow the kids to get out of their seats for five minutes each hour and release some of their pent-up energy.

Proof is in the Pudding

More studies are coming out on the importance of incorporating physical activity for each child at some point during the school day. Research is showing that:

  • Children who are exposed to long periods of academic stimulation have less concentration and attention.
  • Children’s test scores increased the most after taking a 50-minute gym class that concentrated on endurance exercise (running, walking, skipping or anything to keep them moving).
  • Children were able to focus better after the 50-minute gym class.
  • The kids’ test scores did not improve as much if the gym class involved drills with them learning new skills with a ball.

If gym class is nonexistent in your child’s school system, these findings may be reason to suggest to the teachers and administration that kids get in hourly physical activity segments. It is not the same as a 50-minute endurance gym class, but I believe that the break would make an immense difference for the kids and the teachers.

A Jump Here, a Hop There

There are many different activities that teachers could have kids do right at their desk to release some energy for five minutes:

  • Run in place
  • Hop up and down
  • Jumping jacks
  • High jump
  • Arm circles
  • Pretend hula hoop
  • Opposite hand toe touches
  • Reach high, touch toes
  • Balance on one foot
  • Pretend to swim

You get the idea, anything to get the sillies out as my friends say on Yo Gabba Gabba. It is worth a try anyway.

Do you have ideas for how kids could get in more physical activity during the school day? Let me know how it goes this school year!

Photo credit: Cockburn Libraries

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