Physical Education Is Good for Kids’ Grades, Study Finds

Boosting students’ levels of physical education improves their grades, a new, small study says.

Swedish researchers followed more than 200 schoolchildren, starting from first through third grade, for nine years. Some children were assigned to an intervention group that received physical education five days a week, plus extra training in motor-physical skills such as balance and coordination. The other children were assigned to a control group that received usual levels of physical education.

The study showed that 96 percent of students in the intervention group achieved grades that made them eligible to advance to upper-secondary school, compared with 89 percent of students in the control group.

This difference was especially evident among boys (96 percent in the intervention group and 83 percent in the control group). The boys in the intervention group had significantly higher grades in Swedish, English, math, physical education and health than those in the control group.

Like adults, kids need exercise. Most children need at least an hour of physical activity every day. Regular exercise helps children

- Feel less stressed
- Feel better about themselves
- Feel more ready to learn in school
- Keep a healthy weight
- Build and keep healthy bones, muscles and joints
- Sleep better at night

As kids spend more time watching TV, they spend less time running and playing. Parents should limit TV, video game and computer time. Parents can set a good example by being active themselves. Exercising together can be fun for everyone. Competitive sports can help kids stay fit. Walking or biking to school, dancing, bowling and yoga are some other ways for kids to get exercise.

The study also found that in ninth grade, 93 percent of students in the intervention group had good physical motor skills, compared with 53 percent of student in the control group.

“Physical education has been pared down from three lessons a week to one or two,” study author Ingegerd, Ericsson of Malmo University, said in a news release. “We scientifically confirm here that daily timetabled physical education and adapted motor skills training not only improves motor skills but also school achievement.”

Why kids need recess and exercise

A recent multicenter study of more than 11,000 eight- and nine-year-olds, led by pediatric researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, showed that kids who had at least 15 minutes of recess a day (even just 15 minutes!) behaved better in class.

According to study author and developmental pediatrician Romina Barros, M.D., their conduct was likely better because, after hours of concentration, they were able to give their exhausted brains a rest before going back to absorbing information - something many young kids can only do well for about a half hour at a time.


In addition to the mental pause, recess appears to be the most effective way to keep kids active. A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 42% of the nation’s schoolchildren get most of their total daily exercise at recess - more than do so in P.E. or after-school programs.

For sure, in light of America’s childhood-obesity problem (17% of kids between 2 and 19 are obese), participating in recess is one of the few inexpensive, readily available opportunities we have to get kids moving.

What’s more, children who don’t get recess miss out on valuable life lessons, according to Susan Ohanian, an education advocate and author of “What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten?”

“Anybody who knows anything about children - particularly little kids - knows that they learn so much on the playground: how to get along, negotiate, make and follow each other’s rules, talk to one another, and fall down and get back up again,” says Ohanian, who, in addition to being an instructor at an alternative high school in Troy, New York, has taught third, seventh, and eighth grade in public schools there.

“But for kids these days, lunch is too short, they don’t get a chance to talk to anybody, sometimes they can’t even get a drink or go to the bathroom - civilized things adults take for granted. It’s barbaric.”


SUNDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News)

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