Recently an article in The Atlantic outlined how physical movement improves mental focus, memory, and cognitive flexibility. The article also highlighted new research which shows just how critical it is to academic performance. A research paper published in Frontiers in Psychology found that just 12 minutes of aerobic exercise could increase attention and reading comprehension for all students. Most importantly, the effect was so strong for low-income students that the exercise effectively closed the pre-existing gap between selective visual attention and reading comprehension scores of low-income and high-income students. Last month, another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading proficiency in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD.
Sixty minutes is the recommended amount of physical activity for a child each day. How much of that time is fit into the school day? It varies in every school, but what’s disappointing is that the 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that less than thirty percent of high school students had participated in the recommended sixty minutes of physical activity per day within seven days. Would adding more time for physical activity help boost student success?
Working with a lot of expanded learning time schools, we’ve seen really innovative ways schools have used time. There are many ways schools can be creative with the time they use for physical activity. Some schools open their track in the morning and have a walking club for students to start the day early with exercise (and let parents drop students off earlier prior to work). Recess, classroom activity breaks, organized sports, and partnerships with community organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA are all great ways that encourage children to be physically active. The Guilmette School in Lawrence, MA is a great example of a school who is partnering with community organizations to offer a wide array of activities for their students throughout their expanded day.
Read more reasons why schools should add time for exercise here, and share your thoughts with us.