Let's move: Physical fitness programs boost test scores in Minnesota schools
- Physical activity during the school day not only helps students develop a healthy lifestyle, but it’s also contributing to higher math and reading scores and better attendance in Minnesota schools, according to the Star Tribune’s coverage of a new study.
- Researchers from the state’s health and education departments examined the results from 14 elementary schools that received $10,000 to boost physical activity programs over a three-year period. In addition to enhancing their existing physical education programs, most schools also added other activities, such as movement breaks in the classroom and before- and after-school activities, including yoga, running and even snowshoeing, considering it’s Minnesota, the paper reports.
- Students who met recommended aerobic fitness levels were 24% more likely than their peers to be proficient in reading on state standardized tests, 27% more likely to be proficient in math and 6% more likely to have good attendance, the results show. The Active Schools Minnesota study will help to guide other schools as the state drafts standards for physical fitness to comply with a 2016 law.
While former first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to increase the nutritional value of school lunches received plenty of criticism, the Minnesota study backs up her effort to get all K-12 schools to provide students with a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity.
“Dozens of peer reviewed publications as well as studies by state departments of health and education have also demonstrated a positive relationship between student physical activity, physical fitness and academic performance,” the researchers write.
SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, recommends that children get 60 minutes of physical activity every day, which can include organized physical education, recess and the other creative exercise programs offered in Minnesota and the Victor Central School District, near Rochester, NY, as another example. The most recent "Shape of the Nation" report, however, shows that only 27% of students report being physically active at least 60 minutes per day on all seven days before they took the survey.
Reductions in recess time and PE programs in recent years have often been attributed to the pressure on schools to increase test scores, but districts might see higher academic performance—and lower chronic absenteeism—if they give students more opportunities to get out of their seats.
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