Physical education classes have come under fire of late as cash-strapped schools scramble for ways to save money. Everyone knows gym class is a great way to get kids moving and promote a healthy, active lifestyle, but some schools simple cannot afford the teachers or the facilities it takes to run a successful physical education program. Studies conducted to ascertain the value of gym class suggest that it’s far more important than we think.
A number of studies were conducted on school children of all ages. One of the most interesting involved 138 students in Rome aged 8 to 11. The children were all healthy and none of them suffered from known attention disorders, but like most children their age, they had trouble staying focused throughout the long school day. The study required the children to pick letters from a long string of symbols; a test recognized for its ability to ascertain concentration levels. The children wrote the tests before and after their gym classes.
Researchers found that the children’s test scores improved dramatically after their 50-minute gym classes. Their scores improved more the more they moved. Endurance classes where the children were just moving, rather than thinking like they would when playing ball sports, were the most effective in improving their concentration. The findings of the various studies show a remarkable improvement in a student’s ability to concentrate right after exercising. This means that gym classes are not lost school hours, but are a valuable tool in getting students to learn.
It’s not just gym class where these discoveries can be put to good use. We can also encourage students to walk, run or hit the gym when they are studying for exams. Getting your child moving means that they can take a break from their studies and recharge with some fresh air and exercise. Don’t let your kids sit in front of their desks for hours; this will see the rule of diminishing returns take effect as they learn less and less for every hour that they study.
If you are studying, try to schedule regular breaks where you can move around. Play a game, go for a run or a walk or get to the gym to give yourself a break. If you find yourself having to read the same passage over and over again, then it’s time for a break. If the weather outside is not conducive to outdoor activity, do some yoga in the living room or dance to your favourite song. Moving will definitely help you to concentrate.
Exercise has added benefits that help your kids to achieve. Improved sleep patterns, lower blood pressure and reduced obesity rates make your children happier, healthier and even smarter! Make gym classes an indispensable part of your school’s curriculum. If you are having trouble finding the money for physical education programs, get the parents to help raise funds and have a volunteer program for gym instructors rather than a permanent teacher.