Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Community News Network

October 23, 2013

For kids, toning up the body may be a good way to tone up the mind

There's little dispute that physical activity is good for kids: It not only helps develop muscles and fend off obesity, it also offers opportunities to socialize and learn new skills. Getting kids active is a key component of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, which says "children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight."

Can physical activity also help improve a child's academic performance?

"This is a very consistent finding, that physically fit kids do better in school," says James Sallis, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California at San Diego, who has long worked on preventing childhood obesity.

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine asserts that "children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active."

A strong body of research supports the link between physical fitness and test scores. In one study, for example, nearly 2,000 California schoolchildren who were outside a "healthy fitness zone" — a 12-year-old who took longer than 12 minutes to run a mile would be outside that zone — scored lower on state standardized tests than those who were more fit.

A similar study in Nebraska assessed the fitness of schoolchildren in a shuttle run, in which kids run a back-and-forth lap in a set time. The kids who performed best on this test scored higher on both the math and reading portions of state standardized exams.

While compelling, such evidence does not prove that fitness is the cause of higher test scores. Fitness in kids also tends to correlate with higher socioeconomic status, which is strongly predictive of academic achievement.

The more important question is: Does adding opportunities for physical activity during the school day boosts kids' capacity to learn?

The research on this question is still in its early stages, but the evidence is beginning to suggest that the answer is yes.

One recent study conducted in Georgia invited 111 inactive, overweight kids, age 7 to 11, to participate in an after-school exercise program, during which they were active for at least 20 minutes. Another 60 kids, also overweight, were wait-listed and served as controls. After 13 weeks, the kids in the exercise program performed better than the controls on tests of mental tasks such as planning, organizing and strategizing, as well as on standardized math tests.

In Kansas, an intervention designed to combat obesity also found a link between physical activity and learning. In the study, teachers at 14 elementary schools were trained to teach lessons using movement; for example, students might hop or run to letters on the floor to spell words or might solve 2+2=4 by moving their bodies rather than blocks. Ten other schools served as controls; their teachers received no training.

The added activity had positive effects on body weight. In the schools where activity was added, 21.8 percent of children who were at risk for obesity moved into the normal range for body mass index (a measure of weight that takes height into account); in the control schools, 16.8 percent of at-risk kids moved to normal.

Study co-author Joseph Donnelly, director of the Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, says he added a measure of academic performance almost as an afterthought, "to show, at minimum, that we were not disrupting the classroom," he says.

What happened surprised the researchers: Scores on a 30-minute standardized test of reading, writing and math were higher in the schools that used active lessons than in the schools that didn't.

Though it is too early to draw broad conclusions from these studies, the evidence is mounting that physical activity is even more beneficial than previously thought. How this translates into children's lives — where video games and other sedentary activities are a constant allure — is a challenge parents and schools face together.

One promising idea, called SPARK, was developed by Sallis in 1989. It includes a curriculum of activities, available for a fee, that use simple equipment and are led by parents, who conduct before-school and recess-time activities, and by teachers, who incorporate "brain breaks" during classroom time.

Another is a 45-minute before-school program, BOKS. Funded by Reebok, BOKS trains a teacher or parent in how to lead exercises and games to get kids moving.

Sports and lessons in dance or karate are other ways kids get physical activity. But Sallis advises parents to check the quality of such organized activities: The kids "should be active at least 50 percent of the time. A lot of programs don't meet that goal."

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

Features
AP Video
Trial Begins Over OKC Bombing Video $15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. Maine Police Investigate Deaths of Family of 5 UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage US Evacuates Embassy in Libya Amid Clashes Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Obama Asks Central American Leaders for Help Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids
Facebook
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Upon completion and reopening of Third Street, should the City of Knoxville wait to start the next stage of the Streetscape and Infrastructure project until 2015?

Yes
No
     View Results