Laura Varlas

Exercise Linked to Attention and Academic Achievement

Researchers at the University of Illinois have found a positive link between physical activity and attention and physical activity and academic achievement in children. Children in this study were better able to pay attention and performed better on academic tests after bouts of physical exercise. Particularly in reading comprehension, students tested performed a full grade level better after exercise. The study has prompted some curricular recommendations: integrating physical activity into lessons, daily outdoor recess, and 150 minutes of physical education per week at the elementary level and 225 minutes at the secondary level.

In other studies, and previous ASCD Inservice blog posts, brief, planned recess breaks were linked to better behavior. In monitoring the "healthy" component of a whole child education, we've noted that nearly 40 percent of elementary schools have eliminated or are considering eliminating recess, according to the National PTA, even though 75 percent of parents and teachers think elementary school recess should be mandatory.

Teacher Magazine recently reported that school districts in Oregon are failing to reach targets of 30 minutes of recess per day. In a trend that mirrors who gets recess nationwide, large urban schools in Portland were especially far from the mark—some providing only 8 minutes of recess per day. Recess—and physical education—deprived schools often cite curriculum narrowly focused on academic subjects and lack of funding for facilities and instructors.

Has your school cut back on time for physical activity? If so, have you noticed any effects on your students?

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