The Power of PE: Learn Better, Feel Better
This is part 2, of two-part series. In part 1, we discuss the lack of physical activity amongst our youth and the impact it has had on our collective health.
It’s no secret that this nation is facing a serious health and wellness issue and it’s starting in our schools.
Across the country, PE courses are being cut or drastically reduced due to budget constraints or shifting priorities. Students are less and less active as they grow up within our educational system.
Such sedentary behavior has led to our younger generations being less healthy than ever before. (Read our article on this phenomenon here)
The importance of correcting such an unhealthy trajectory has surged in recent years. Educators and schools are working hard to re-invest in Physical Education programs, reinvigorate recess, and introduce scheduled classroom activity.
As a direct result, we are beginning to understand just how important PE is to the education of the “Whole Child”.
Hundreds of studies have come out in just the last few years, all illuminating a direct positive connection between formal physical education programs and improved academic achievement.
Fitness Education, it seems, may just be the secret sauce for effective education!
According to researchers, regular, structured physical activity directly affects the brain’s physiology in such a way that improves education and learning.
Exercise, and the associated increase in blood flow and oxygenation in the brain leads to the development of cerebral capillaries, the production of neurotrophins, the growth of nerve cells, and the overall improvement of the brain’s neural network.
Your brain, itself, will grow in size.
As a direct result of this cerebral activity, this “brain exercise,” their lies a proven positive association to academic achievement.
In Naperville, Illinois, math and reading scores shot through the roof when PE was mandated and placed at the beginning of every school day.
Frankly put, regular exercise creates better learners.
Regular physical activity, and its effect on students’ brains and biochemistry leads to improved execution functioning and cognition. Students concentrate better, have better memory, and can process, store, and retrieve information more effectively.
Perhaps most importantly, though, there has been shown to be absolutely NO downside to spending more time in PE and less in other subjects:
“The studies also suggest that increased time spent in physical education is not likely to detract from academic performance even when less time is devoted to subjects other than physical education.”
When push comes to shove, spending more time in structured PE is proven to be an effective way of creating better learners and higher achieving students.
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While standardized test scores and academic achievement are important, the positive emotional effects of fitness education may be even more important.
As reported by the APA in 2018, depression and anxiety are affecting our teens worse than any other age group. Intense schedules, social pressures, and rising academic/athletic/personal expectations have taken their toll on our youth.
Today’s generation of students and young adults are more stressed than ever before.
Luckily, an investment in activity and physical education can pay dividends here, as well as exercise has been shown to:
- elevate mood
- positively influence depression and anxiety
- reduce psychosocial stress
- enhance various aspects of self-esteem.
Additionally, school & classroom behavior appears to be radically improved as well.
Studies have continuously found associations between PE and impulse control, attention, attitude, and task-based behavior amongst students throughout their school day.
Schools that enhanced the presence of Physical Education and school-sanctioned physical activity have experienced less educational “disruption” in general. In fact, there exists a strong correlation between high physical fitness achievement and a concurrent improvement in attendance and decrease in disciplinary incidents.
In a generation full of behavior disorder diagnoses, and medicated kids, this goes even farther. Parents and teachers of children with ADHD reported markedly improved behavior following structured physical activity.
Long story short, kids who are engaged in regular physical fitness programs have more positive moods, better classroom behavior, and feel less stress.
We Owe it to Our Kids
We all want the best for our kids.
If we want them to be successful students, healthy kids, and happy people, then we must look at the role and presence of fitness and activity in their daily lives.
When push comes to shove, we owe it to our kids to place a greater emphasis on PE within their overall education.
The research is clear, it will help them live healthier lives, perform better in school, and experience greater emotional happiness.
MEET THE AUTHOR
SAM BRESLIN, Co-Founder, Head of Performance
- CSCS, CF-L1
- Offensive Coordinator & Head Strength Coach at a High School in MA