The following blog post was written by Lauren Hathaway, an Eye On Education editorial staff member.
In the National Education Association’s recent article, "Cure Winter Doldrums with In-Class Exercise," former middle school teacher Phil Nast encourages schools to take advantage of exercise and its positive effects on behavior and learning in the classroom.
Many people acknowledge the importance of exercise in schools for promoting a healthy lifestyle among the youth and fighting childhood obesity. But the benefits of exercise don’t stop with physical health. In fact, physical activity can positively impact many aspects of a person’s mental health as well, and can be a powerful tool for keeping students alert, focused, and in a good frame of mind throughout the school day.
According to John J. Ratey, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, exercise can help moderate hormonal fluctuations, ADHD, stress, anxiety, and mood, and it can improve academic achievement. Consider the two real-life cases Nast gives of schools that have experienced dramatic improvements in learning and discipline as a result of increasing students’ physical activity:
- Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois, experienced a significant rise in reading and math scores over a five-year period, where students exercised prior to challenging classes and took regular “brain breaks” in class to “refresh and refocus attention.”
- Charleston Progressive Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, reported a 95% decrease in before-school discipline referrals after implementing a program where students could participate in sports and physical activity before the school day began. Teachers also noted that their students were more focused after these morning activities.
Exercise is good for the body and the brain! For more valuable information on the mental benefits of exercise and ideas for in-class exercise and activities, check out Nast’s article and these other online resources:
Have you ever used in-class exercises with your students? Share your experience in a comment below!