Put the physical in education

Sept. 4, 2014, The New York Times [Well Blog]

By Gretchen Reynolds

When confronted with an overly active child, many exasperated teachers and parents respond the same way: “Sit still!” It might be more effective, though, to encourage the child to run. Recent research suggests that even small amounts of exercise enable children to improve their focus and academic performance.

By now it’s well known that diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are increasingly widespread among American children: The label has been applied to about 11 percent of those between the ages of 4 and 17, according to the latest federal statistics. Interestingly, past studies have shown a strong correlation between greater aerobic fitness and attentiveness. But these studies did not answer the question of which comes first, the fitness or the attentional control. Continue reading

Study: Children who are physically fit have enhanced language skills

June 3, 2014, Red Orbit

Physically fit children are not only healthier, they have faster and more robust neuro-electrical brain responses while reading, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Illinois. The findings were published in the journal Brain and Cognition.

Although the research does not prove that higher fitness directly affects the changes in the electrical activity in the brain, it does offer a mechanism to explain why physical fitness associates closely with improved cognitive performance with a variety of tasks and language skills.

The difference between physically fit children and unfit children is that better language skills are obtained with children that are fit. The study also revealed no difference while the child was reading correct sentences or ones with errors.

“All we know is there is something different about higher- and lower-fit kids,” said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman, who led the research with graduate student Mark Scudder and psychology professor Kara Federmeier. “Now whether that difference is caused by fitness or maybe some third variable that (affects) both fitness and language processing, we don’t know yet.” Continue reading

When kids exercise more, their grades might rise too

Feb. 28, 2013, HealthDay

One key to better grades in the classroom may lie in the gym or on the playground, a new study finds.

The research, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, found that elementary and middle school students who don’t get enough exercise are more likely to fail math and reading tests.

Although the study didn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, the findings may be especially important in light of the fact that some school districts in the United States have cut physical education classes in order to devote more time to the “3 Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic), the researchers said. Continue reading