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Physical Education in the News

Increased MVPA = Improved Academic Test Scores?

Most educators have long had an inkling of the import role of physical activity in learning.  Thanks to Harvard Psychiatry professor John Ratey, and his book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” we are all gaining a more quantified understanding of how critical daily physical activity is to optimal learning in our schools. 

In the attached article, “Transforming P.E. and Maybe Test Scores Too,” author Ann Schimke describes an exciting success story from Falcon Bluffs Middle School in Littleton, Colorado.  After reading “Spark”, principal Ryan West decided to embark upon an experiment of sorts with the help of counselor Rob Longbrake.  West and Longbrake recruited 16 students that were reading below grade level to participate in an elective physical activity session each day before their remedial reading class.   The goal was to accumulate as many minutes of MVPA (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity) as possible, and to see if that correlated with improved reading test scores.  The students had fun being active playing ultimate football and other games, and they all made undeniable gains in reading.

Though compelling, the story of 16 students is far from a scientific study.  However, it was enough to convince this Colorado school to expand the program to include all PE classes and to add a before school “Spark” program.

In PE class, students monitor their MVPA with user-friendly pedometers which use an algorithm based on step counts to calculate MVPA.  Teachers then upload data on the number of minutes each student spends in the MVPA zone during class. Teachers can use this data to motivate students with contest and recognition.  Participating teachers are excited about the increased motivation to move they are seeing in their students.  Will improved academic progress follow the trend of increased time in the MVPA zone?  Time and further trials will tell.

Click here for information about uploadable pedometers

Read the full article from Chalkbeat Colorado by clicking the link below.  Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering educational change efforts.

Transforming P.E. and maybe test scores too (via Chalkbeat Colorado)

A seventh-grade girl in black skinny jeans and a black cardigan casually strolled into the gymnasium before fifth period at Falcon Bluffs Middle School in Littleton. She crossed toward a box of bright orange pedometers sitting on the floor, stooped…



Kids Less Physically Fit Than Parents Were at Their Age


If today's kids were to race their parents when they were children, chances are their parents would win, according to new research.

Researchers analyzed 50 fitness studies that were conducted between 1964 and 2010, and found today's kids run slower and have less endurance than their past counterparts.

The 50 studies included fitness results on more than 25 million kids from 28 countries. Researchers specifically looked at results that could predict the kids' cardiovascular endurance, namely how far they could run in a set time or how long it took to run a set distance.

They note kids can be fit in plenty of ways like if they're flexible gymnasts or strong weightlifters, but the ability to run multiple laps and sustain vigorous exercise is what's most important for cardiovascular fitness.

The researchers found kids' cardiovascular fitness declined around the globe by 5 percent every decade since 1975. In a mile run, kids are about a full minute and a half slower than children were 30 years ago.
Overall, kids were determined to be 15 percent less fit than their parents were as children.


In the United States alone, kids endurance levels fell by an average of 6 percent each decade between 1970 and 2000.
Researchers warn these generational declines in running fitness may suggest today's children and adolescents may grow into unhealthier adults at risk for heart problems.
"We need to help to inspire children and youth to develop fitness habits that will keep them healthy now and into the future," lead researcher Grant Tomkinson, a senior lecturer in the University of South Australia's School of Health Sciences, said in a press release.
The U.S. has seen a surge in childhood obesity rates during this time, which federal estimates reporting a tripling in obesity rates since the 1980s. Today, about 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are obese.
Tomkinson pointed out his study in fact found between 30 and 60 percent of the fitness declines may be attributed to increases in children's fat mass.
He calls on children to exercise for 60 minutes a day, focusing on activities like running, swimming or cycling.
"They need to choose a range of physical activities they like or think they might like to try, and they need to get moving," he said.
The research was presented Nov. 19 at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Dallas. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
If American kids in particular need inspiration exercising, their parents might not be the best example. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in April that 80 percent of U.S. adults don't meet the government recommended physical activity levels each week.
Children and teens who exercise may experience other health benefits: A recent study found adolescents who routinely engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise were more likely to have better grades at school than their unfit peers.
© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.



Schools Should Provide Opportunities for 60 Minutes of Daily Physical Activity to All Students

WASHINGTON – Given the implications for the overall health, development, and academic success of children, schools should play a primary role in ensuring that all students have opportunities to engage in at least 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.  Recent estimates suggest that only about half of school-age children meet this evidence-based guideline for promoting better health and development.  The report recommends that most daily physical activity occur during regular school hours in physical education classes, recess or breaks, and classroom exercises, with additional opportunities available through active commutes to and from school, before- and after-school programs, and participation in intramural or varsity sports.


"Schools are critical for the education and health of our children," said Harold W. Kohl III, professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health and chair of the committee that wrote the report.  "They already provide key services such as health screenings, immunizations, and nutritious meals.  Daily physical activity is as important to children's health and development as these other health-related services, and providing opportunities for physical activity should be a priority for all schools, both through physical education and other options."

The report calls on the U.S. Department of Education to designate physical education as a core academic subject to draw attention and attract the resources necessary to enhance content, instruction, and accountability.  Although most states currently have laws addressing physical education requirements in schools, there are no consistent nationwide policies.  The committee recommends that 30 minutes per day in elementary school and 45 minutes per day in middle and high schools be devoted to physical education, and students should spend at least half that time engaged in vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity.  But it emphasizes that physical education cannot be the sole source of physical activity; additional opportunities should exist throughout the school environment.

Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, 44 percent of school administrators have reported cutting significant time from physical education and recess to devote more time to reading and mathematics in the classroom.  But a growing body of evidence suggests that increasing physical activity and fitness may improve academic performance -- especially in mathematics and reading -- and that the benefits of engaging in physical activity during the school day outweigh the benefits of exclusive use of classroom time for academic learning. 

A variety of physical activities that include aerobic and resistance exercises, structured and unstructured activities, and both short and longer sessions will likely confer the greatest benefits, the report says.  For example, aerobic fitness is linked to brain structure and function related to working memory and problem solving, and single bursts of activity have been shown to increase time on task and improve focus.  Recess provides students the chance to refine social skills and use their imaginations. 

Along with a minimum number of minutes spent in physical education classes, students should also receive frequent classroom breaks, and recess should not be taken away as punishment or replaced with additional academic instruction, the report adds.  The report illustrates how scheduling physical education and recess on a daily and weekly basis can still allow for ample classroom time devoted to core subjects.

Ensuring equity in access to physical activity and physical education will require support from federal and state governments as well as state, district, and local education administrators, the report says.  School systems at every level, together with city planners and parent-teacher organizations, should consider physical activity in all policy decisions related to the school environment. 

The study was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to NAS in 1863.  A committee roster follows.

Article from National Academies

Lauren Rugani, Media Relations Officer
Chelsea Dickson, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information


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