Salt Lake City, Utah – In recent years as we’ve seen obesity rates in children skyrocket, we’ve seen a huge push to get children more physically active. But did you know that physical activity not only improves their health, it may just improve their academic lives, too?
“A Dutch study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found a positive link between physical activity and academic success,” says Amy Moyes, a Millcreek child care expert and owner of Learning Tree Schools. “Regular physical activity seems to be linked to better brain function. Exercise can increase the amount of endorphins a person creates, improving their mood as well as increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.”
Those factors seem to help children in their academic performance. Among the areas that seem to be affected by physical activity are concentration, memory, self-esteem and verbal skills.
In recent years, we have seen a huge emphasis placed on the value of student test scores, even so much that many schools have contemplated cutting physical education programs altogether and focusing that time instead solely on academics. But this study suggests that might be the wrong way to go about things.
“Physical fitness and academics can be incorporated together,” says Bethany Hosking, Moyes’ co-owner of the Murray preschool. “We operate programs that serve children from infant through school age, and academics are a priority, especially in our preschool and private kindergarten programs. But combining physical activity in learning activities provides a two-fold advantage – children will be healthier, while exercising their brain power at the same time.”
A program offered by the Medical University of South Carolina recently proved the effectiveness of combining physical activity with academics. They introduced 40 minutes of physical activity paired with a different learning component for each grade level. After the program was implemented, they were pleased to find that more children achieved their goal test scores on standardized tests.
“As more technology is introduced, we see our children becoming more and more sedentary,” says Moyes, whose day care program for older children offers a host of physical activities. “At our child day care center, we realize the importance of both academics and physical activity in the well-rounded child. We also recognize that it’s often up to the child care providers to encourage children to be active, so we strive to provide fun and educational ways children can exercise. Our programs incorporate critical thinking and creativity to help children exercise their brains and their bodies.”
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