Physical activity is a central part of children’s overall well-being because their physical, mental and emotional health lies at the heart of their ability to learn and succeed.
“Physical activity yields such amazing results,” said Emily Coe, Director of Behavioral Sciences at HealthTeacher. “Activities like jumping rope, walking, playing tag and playing sports can help kids perform better in school and help them get along better with their peers. In addition, helping kids learn to enjoy physical activity of any sort provides them with a lifelong appreciation of physical activity and its benefits."
Research has repeatedly revealed that physical activity directly influences the brain and its ability to learn and perform well. " A University of Illinois study in 2010 showed that brain scans of active 9- and 10-year-olds revealed larger portions of the brain that control complex thinking. Other studies have shown links between exercise in children and “enhanced neurocognition.” The improvements to the brain show that there is a link between exercise and performance in school.
Why? On the most basic level, exercise helps send more oxygen to the brain, which improves how it functions and helps you think more sharply. According to Dr. John Ratey in his 2008 book The Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, exercise improves learning on three levels:
To tie in lessons about life balance, time management, nutrition, stress management and physical activity, have your students write about a time when they felt really positive and balanced. Afterward, tally up which factors stood out most frequently as positive life factors. Was physical activity involved?
WAYS TO GET YOUR CLASSROOM MOVING!
It’s not always easy to work movement and physical activities into your lesson plans, but that doesn’t mean physical activity has to be ignored. Check out the tips below for some easy, quick and free ways to get your students moving on a regular basis.
- Be active at recess! Even if it’s just once a week, organize a group activity, kickball game or hopscotch tournament that all of the kids can participate in.
- Use break times between lessons for physical activity. "Desk-side movement is a great way to revive kids in the classroom," Coe said. "Jumping jacks, high-knee jogging and other simple movements can be easily incorporated throughout the school day."
Save time at the very end of the day for a class dance move or jumping-jack routine that you integrate with another lesson. The kids can spell out a challenging word or repeat a multiplication table, while ending on a positive, active note.