With all the hype over misdiagnosed ADHD in kids and the reason for their hyperactivity in general, researchers shedding new light on old information that links academic performance with physical education makes perfect sense. So often we have seen schools eliminating what once were thought to be valuable aspects of our children’s education. Physical education and exercise in our youngest group of citizens is one such aspect of school and daily life that seems to be dwindling. And now, after fourteen separate studies were scrutinized, it seems that the detrimental effects of less physical activity are proving to be very real.
The report, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, mentions how in ten of the past studies that were recently evaluated, children were observed to measure the correlation of academic performance based on self-assessment of their physical activity. The students’ parents and teachers were also asked to assess the students’ level of activity. In the four remaining reports, each study involved evaluating two separate groups of students’ academic performance based on varying levels of physical activity. Some of those kids were given extra physical education and/or health-related classes whereas the other respective group in each study did not receive the extra PE time during school days. The benefits of exercise were found to be two-fold, in that not only was academic performance measurably better in those students that received extra activity, but the obvious benefit of fewer incidents of weight gain was also prevalent in those students.
The findings, especially as derived in this week’s published report, show that heightened levels of physical activity is directly proportionate to a stronger focus and better academic performance. What is the reason for this? One of the reasons for this as cited in the recent report could be that kids are able to concentrate better when they have had a chance to exercise. Also, blood flow to the brain increases with exercise, boosting their moods and in turn causing leading to performance in school.
Senior Researcher Amika Singh, of the VU University Medical Center of Amsterdam, says that seeing the previous studies in a new light helps to underline the priority with which academic institutions and parents alike should view physical activity in school-going children’s lives.
At a time when there is often a stigmatism against athletes that excel in the physical aspect of their curriculum rather than only the academic, the fact that many of them are scholars is something to be noted. Could it be that based on this new perspective the very reason athletes are able to get good grades is because of their ability to release pent-up energy through sports activities? This is all the more reason to celebrate the scholar athlete, in my opinion. For someone to place equal, if not at least a balanced, emphasis on education as well as the exercise and physical fitness aspects of life – shows that they understand the concept of holistic health. I am sure that if these students were compared to others that have not placed an emphasis on fitness, there would be a definite difference in the end quality of their lives.
Going back again to the 14 studies that were recently evaluated, it is interesting that the areas of academia measured as having significant improvement were math, language, general thinking and memory. All four of these categories are pivotal to successful living and the very thought that increased physical education is one way to ensure that our children can grow up into well-rounded adults is promising.
The problem is that there is a four-letter word out there that continues to plague schools across the board. CUTS – as in budget cuts. This is one reason that we can expect to see things like recess and school-sponsored sports programs all but obliterated from the system. What can we as parents or conscious members of society do about it? We can take a stand. We can lobby our Congress-people to disallow schools to cut physical education and activity from their curriculums. We can demand that keeping our kids’ hearts healthy is paramount to the future of our world and show the powers that be that if we are not careful, we stand to suffer the harsh consequences of future generations in poorer health than we are now as a society. As a Social Media Medicine practitioner, I know my role will be to continue to advocate physical activity, movement, exercise and all forms of healthy living – as I do with my patients and as I did with my own sons. Here is yet another reason to be added to the long list of positives for living healthy.