Monday, September 1, 2014

5 reasons why we need physical education in schools

As schools and districts attempt to continue improving student learning opportunities, there's a frightening trend emerging that might not have the intended consequences.

In an effort to provide students more time with math and reading and other core area subjects, schools are cutting back on physical education courses, and recess opportunities are shrinking for students at the elementary levels.

The dangerous trend of giving physical education the backseat to other 'more important' areas of learning might not yield the intended results.

Here are five reasons why we need more physical activity in our schools and not less...

1). Physical activity helps to enlarge your brain's basal ganglia which controls your ability to focus.

We all know how hard it can be to focus at times and we are living in a day and age where a plethora of things are vying for our students' attention. Therefore, any measures we can put in place that will help our students to not just maintain their focus, but also enhance their focus, most certainly will pay off when it comes to student learning.

2). Physical activity positively affects several vitally important areas of health.

Steady amounts of physical activity will prevent obesity and will help to maintain proper levels of blood pressure. Additionally, physical activity will ensure students grow up with healthy bone structures as they continue their skeletal development. Finally, cholesterol levels will also be kept in-check with daily physical activity. As we all know, students who are physically healthy will be in school more often and absent less and will be better able to focus on their learning.

3). Physical activity helps you sleep and improves your overall sleep quality.

When we get consistent and daily doses of exercise our sleeping experiences become higher quality. Since the physical body needs the nightly recharge more, the body is able to fall asleep faster and get into a 'deeper' level of sleep more quickly. Because of this, the quality of sleep goes up drastically and a classroom full of well-rested and recharged students will always perform better than a room full of tired and fatigued students.

4). Physical activity is a natural stress reliever.

When we are stressed we are unable to focus as well and we become tired more easily due to struggles with sleeping. Additionally, we are less able to be patient and are much more susceptible to mood swings. When we get physical activity we are able to relieve and diminish these levels of stress which in turn will have several positive effects on our overall mental and physical health. Stressed students don't and can't learn, so let's ensure they have some outlets to keep the stress at a minimum.

5). Physical activity stimulates brain plasticity.

Brain plasticity allows our brains to be more 'fluid' and 'moldable' so to speak. When this happens, our brains are able to make new connections as well as able to strengthen existing connections. The more and stronger neuronal connections we have the better able we are to learn and retain information. This obviously has huge implications for our students on how and when they learn.

So, in closing, let's increase opportunities for our students when it comes to physical activity. When we add physical activity to our overall instructional programming rather than cutting it, we might just get the results we are looking for...