Learning and Health

Physical Education and Physical Activity

We know that students do better in school when they are emotionally and physically healthy. They miss fewer classes, are less likely to engage in risky or antisocial behavior, concentrate more, and achieve higher test scores. Research shows physical education programs not only improve physical fitness, but they can also benefit students by improving skill development, reinforcing self-discipline, supporting academic achievement, reducing stress, strengthening peer relationships, improving self-confidence and self-esteem, and teaching goal setting.

While the benefits of exercise among youth are well-established, the availability of physical activity opportunities in schools has been challenged in recent years. Some schools have reduced nonacademic programs, such as physical education and recess, to increase student time for academics or to save money. Earlier this year, Tisha Shipley, assistant professor at Ashford University, dedicated an entry on the Whole Child Blog ("Play: Is it Becoming Extinct?") to examining the state of physical activity in schools and its effect on children. According to Shipley, because today's schools rarely encourage "free" play that exercises students' active, creative, and decision-making abilities, children have few opportunities to "practice" their learning. To rectify this deficiency, she recommends several ways that teachers and families can foster such play in fun, nonjudgmental environments.

While many schools have cut physical exercise programs, others have increased the mandated amount of physical activity during the school day. Many of these schools have partnered with organizations, like our whole child partners Playworks and Spark, to encourage meaningful and research-based physical activity programs shown to improve student outcomes. Read this month's Learning and Health newsletter to learn about ASCD and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) physical education and physical activity resources and research.

Have you signed up to receive the monthly ASCD Learning and Health newsletter? Created in partnership with the CDC, this newsletter looks further into each of the new Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model components and helps promote the alignment, integration, and collaboration of the education and health sectors to improve each child's cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

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