By Ken Reed

There has long been a fairly popular perception that schools should be about “the life of the mind” and that physical activities in general, and physical education in particular, should have nothing to do with the learning process.

Given all the research data showing a positive relationship between exercise and the brain that’s simply an erroneous perception.

The reality is the body and brain are intimately connected. When we exercise we are not only exercising the body but we’re also stimulating the areas of the brain responsible for cognitive functioning. In fact, when we engage in cardiovascular exercise we’re actually growing brain cells. That’s why Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, calls exercise “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”

When you exercise your body you’re simultaneously preparing your brain for learning. It’s as simple as that. There is no separation. The body and brain are one. That needs to be communicated on an ongoing basis.

“Fitness-based physical education can make students healthier, smarter and better-behaved,” said Phil Lawler, widely considered the Father of the New P.E.

“That’s proven. It’s not a theory. Now the challenge is to help every educator, school board member and parent become aware of that fact and fully understand what it can mean for our children. Most educators still aren’t aware of this powerful stuff.”

We’re living in a time when physical education programs are being cut or deemphasized, and new elementary schools are being built without gyms. The research says we should be doing the complete opposite. Physical education, intramural sports, and lifetime physical activities — group and individual, all need to be emphasized more, not less, in our nation’s schools. Similarly, movement needs to be incorporated into the traditional classroom during subjects like math, language and science.

If we want our children to be healthier, perform better academically, and have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, we need to get them out of their desk chairs more often and moving their bodies on a regular basis.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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