By Ken Reed

Despite strong evidence that regular, cardiovascular-based, physical education improves health, academic performance and behavioral problems, many schools continue to cut all means of physical activity, including P.E., recess and intramural sports programs.

These decision boggle the mind. If principals and school boards want improved test scores, they should be adding P.E., recess and intramural sports time, not cutting it. In fact, the best thing a teacher could do to improve performance on a test is to have all the students go outside and jog around the building for 20 minutes before taking the test.

The CDC states:

“…physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”

“It is likely that the effects of physical activity on cognition would be particularly important in the highly plastic developing brains of youth,” said researcher Charles Basch of Columbia University. He says exercise may positively affect executive functioning in the following ways: 1) increased oxygen flow to the brain; 2) increased brain neurotransmitters; and 3) “[Increased] brain-derived neurotrophins that support neuronal differentiation and survival in the developing brain.” Neurotrophins assure the survival of neurons in areas responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking.

Despite research findings like these, school districts in some parts of the country are building elementary schools without gyms. It’s hard to imagine that the decision-makers in these cases spent any time researching ways to enhance academic performance and improve behavioral problems.

Given the mountain of research we have now regarding the positive impact of physical education, physical activity in the classroom, recess and intramural sports, it’s time that educators and school board members are held accountable for cutting or eliminating these important child development programs.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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