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Active Kids Do Better in School

Fitness News Flash

-- By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor & Health Educator
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A recent study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) investigated the link between physical activity in children and academic performance in school. Initially, researchers predicted that kids who took physical education (PE) during the school day would do better academically, since it helps reduce boredom and helps kids stay focused.

The study, reported in ACSM's official journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, examined 214 children of middle school age. All students were randomly assigned to a PE class in either the first or second semester of the school year. Researchers collected information on each student's activity level in and outside of the PE class, and compared their level of activity to their grades in the subjects of math, science, world studies and English.

Surprisingly, researchers found that being enrolled in PE (moderate activity for 30 minutes, 5 days per week) did not influence the children's grades. The government's Healthy People 2010 guidelines recommend vigorous activity for 20 minutes, at least 3 days per week. This study showed that the more active children were, such as participating in a sport or other vigorous activity, the better they did in school. Most of the children who did exercise "vigorously" did so outside of school, by playing sports like soccer, basketball, football, baseball and softball.

Action Sparked: These ACSM researchers recommend that physical education classes include more vigorous activities for kids. Other research also shows that active children do better in school, are better able to concentrate, and even exhibit fewer behavior problems. If your child's school isn't requiring enough physical activity, encourage your child to participate in a school or club sport that she enjoys. Team sports teach kids more than fitness—they improve motor skills, increase self-esteem, and foster cooperation and teamwork. Even non-athletic children can meet physical activity recommendations with non-competitive activities such as biking, swimming and jogging and by dancing or playing games like tag.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • Great article. Kids are way different when we came up. They are so lazy. - 10/27/2013 11:43:02 AM
  • I agree that physical activity is a must for children, but I disagree that mandatory PE or more vigorous activities are the answers. When I was a kid we had required PE (we called it gym back then) through 9th grade and it was torture, bad for my self esteem and havoc on my GPA because I could never do well in PE. If PE classes were tailored to the physical level of the individual child, that would be great but it isn't. It forces kids to be what they aren't. If I could have walked around the track for an hour instead of being forced to play soccer on a team that didn't want me on it, or volleyball, or whatever the game of the week was, I might have learned to enjoy physical fitness at a much younger age and stayed in much better physical shape than I did. - 10/26/2013 11:33:03 AM
  • My BF is a 3rd grade teacher. She can attest that the days without PE or recess outside are harder to teacher because they are so ansy.

    PE or recess SHOULD be MANDITORY - at least thru middle school

    - 11/13/2012 6:05:02 PM
  • Whether PE is great or not depends almost completely on the teacher. Some are grossly incompetent. I had an overweight teacher who could never demonstrate anything she demanded we do. This wasn't a problem for me most of the time, since I was a skinny kid with good coordination, but I remember when she tried to force a girl with two left feet to jump over the horse again although she had broken her arm on the first try. And I remember the time when she, because I'd climbed a rope up to the ceiling without waiting for permission, started jangling the rope so I almost fell fifteen feet and my fellow students had to stop her. She could have killed me. The problem is not just that many of them are physically in terrible shape, but that some of them have obvious mental issues, and are cruel, and stupid, and bullies as some comments already mentioned. That is a much bigger problem. - 8/27/2012 9:35:55 PM
  • HARMBRUSTER
    Now could you explain that to my 1st grader who whines as we walk to school and home each day. LOL! - 8/27/2012 1:11:10 PM
  • Why criticize a poll for not bothering to define the many types of families?

    This poll did not presume to define "family." I took family to mean the family you choose to define. This could be three roomies or a couple or one parent with a foster child or whatever. I chose to define family as the four adults who don't always live under the same roof but we define ourselves as family.

    Please, everyone, feel free to choose how to define your own family. Don't expect a little SP poll to do that for you.

    - 8/27/2012 11:39:59 AM
  • I had already thought that I would start having Jake walk jog with me in the morning this just makes me know I was right and we will be starting in the morning - 8/27/2012 10:01:13 AM
  • This is part of why I have put my step-son in football. He's getting overweight, has some behavior issues at school (yet not at home...) and his PE at school is a joke. He definitely needed something extra-curricular to help out. He loves it! He's not very good at it yet, but his community league is very good. He plays outside at least an hour a day at home, but needs that extra push. - 8/27/2012 9:17:03 AM
  • I HATED PE with a passion. I basically got dressed, did the warm ups, and stood there. This was the minimum I had to do to pass. If it weren't for marching band and my discovery of solitary walks in the woods I would have been completely inactive. I've tried to be open minded about PE with my kids but they aren't athletes either and similarly hate it. I'm all for encouraging activity, dh and I do try to engage the kids in family walks, but PE is not necessarily the way to do it. Its not well rounded enough. Its all about sports and some kids could care less about sports. - 7/25/2011 9:00:22 AM
  • I totally disagree with this article. I was required to take P.E. everyday until I was a senior in high school. My grade point actually improved when I did not have to take P.E. P.E, did more to damage your self esteem than any other class. In other classes if you do not have the skills needed on the first day of class, they work with you and teach you. Not in P.E. you need to be a star athlete on the first day of class.

    P.E. in my experience is where a lot of bullying takes place, and it is encouraged by the teacher.

    - 7/25/2011 7:25:41 AM
  • Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, we were required to take PE every day, every semester clear through high school. We also were expected to get ourselves to school on foot or by bike. When my kids were in middle school, you could only take the bus if you lived at least two miles from the school. We were 1.9 miles so they rode their bikes, carrying their 20 lb. back packs, lunches, gym clothes, and musical instruments. I can't see that it ddi any of us any harm, especially since it is clear that there was much less obesity in those days. But then, we lived in cities with side walks and cross walks, not in pedestrian-danger
    ous suburbs. - 7/18/2011 8:17:18 AM
  • I don't agree with this article - I did much much better when I was younger and less active than I ever did at high school or college. There are alot of other FACTORS not mentioned
    there are LOT of other factors like a stable home life etc NOT mentioned that matter AT LEAST as much as what so called fitness does. - 4/19/2011 10:13:51 PM
  • I agree totally with this article. My 7 year old daughter is lucky enough to attend a school with these same beliefs. They have a fitness club at 7:30 in the morning where the kids are all given pedometers and they walk and/or run for 30 minutes or until they have walked 1200 steps. Once they have reached the 1200 steps they get 'rewarded' by getting to go to the other side of the gym and play games like red rover, sack races etc. At the end of the month if they have reached 50,000 steps they get awards such as skating, pizza party and the one most of the kids wat - going biking or on a hike with the principal :). She loves going and just like us it gets her body moving and her blood flowing so that when it is time for class she is wide awake and happy. Best part is that the club is absolutely free!! Last time a did a quick head count there were about 100 kids participating :) - 1/5/2010 9:37:10 AM
  • I agree that sports, dance, or some other form of exercise is good for kids. My 3rd grader doesn't want to play baseball anymore, and doesn't want to try soccer, basketball, or football. He expressed interest in Karate, so we found a Taekwondo class that doesn't require a 6 month or 12 month contract. And since it's one price for the whole family, we're all taking it. Now when he talks about quitting, we tell him he can, but we're not so he'll have to go and sit quietly or he can participate with us...he chose the latter, thank goodness. - 1/4/2010 5:25:15 PM
  • BABY127
    Kids can always do better in a better school is because some schools are not good at all is because some kids are leaving a bad enviroment or could a good enviroment for there own good - 3/29/2009 9:21:50 PM
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