By Ken Reed

Rick Maese has an excellent feature story in the Washington Post about how cardiovascular-based exercise and sports participation can make our kids not only healthier but smarter with fewer emotional and behavioral issues. The piece, titled “Youth Movement,” highlights Charleston, South Carolina schools and the work of a physical education advocate named David Spurlock, the coordinator of health, wellness and physical education for the Charleston County School District.

Spurlock is an evangelist for getting our kids moving more — especially in our schools.

“If you went to anybody who’s in education, you say PE versus instruction, they say instruction every time,” says Spurlock. “But what we’re trying to show is that more movement equals better grades, better behavior, better bodies.”

The current situation is bleak. Too many of our children live sedentary lives, and the school system isn’t helping.

The American College of Sports Medicine issued a D- grade last year on physical activity by U.S. children. The grade was based on their finding that just 25% of children ages 6-15 are active for even 60 minutes a day. In addition, youth sports participation also has fallen nearly 10 percent since 2009, according to the Sports & Industry Fitness Association.

The federal No Child Left Behind legislation has made things even worse. It resulted in an emphasis on standardized testing in schools across the country. Math, science, reading and writing became the focus and courses like physical education were dropped or greatly cut back. What educators didn’t realize — or chose to ignore — is that fit kids perform better academically, including scoring better on standardized tests.

A study this year at the American College of Sports Medicine found that fourth-and fifth-grade students who engaged in vigorous exercise for at least 10 minutes before a math test scored higher than children who sit still. The study concluded that children who are physically fit absorb and retain new information more effectively than sedentary children.

That study was just the latest of a growing mound of research reports revealing that fit kids not only are healthier, but smarter, and more well-adjusted emotionally.

So, what’s our country’s education system doing in light of all this evidence? The answer is keeping our children locked to their desks for even longer periods than they were a decade ago.

“We put kids in a 2×2 cell and dare them to move: ‘Keep your feet on floor and hands up where I can see them,’” says Spurlock. “That sounds like being incarcerated to me.”

And that is truly criminal.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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