Connection Between Exercising and Education

Move More to Learn More: The Connection between exercising and education

As parents, we’re all well aware that the mind and body are undeniably linked. Any new mother who has endured a sleepless night thanks to her newborn may have issues instantly recalling her breakfast from the previous day or that upcoming doctor’s appointment next Friday. This is why we look into the connection between exercising and education.

This mind-body connection is also evident in our children. Restless little ones with too much pent-up energy will inevitably have trouble concentrating on absorbing information or successfully completing their homework. The same applies if they’re hungry, thirsty or are feeling under the weather — optimal mental development requires their little bodies to be finely tuned and in tip-top shape.

But many kiddos these days simply aren’t moving enough to achieve peak physical wellness. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) is just one of many industry organizations that recommend 60 minutes of accumulated physical activity daily for children aged five to 11. And according to CSEP, that should include vigorous intensity activities at least three times a week.

Unfortunately, kids are simply not getting their hour of daily exercise. According to statistics from the government of B.C., three out of five Canadian kids aged 5-17 aren’t getting enough physical activity for optimal growth and development. And here’s a number that hits much closer to home: one out of every four children in B.C. between the ages of two and 17 is overweight or obese.  

So, why aren’t kids moving enough? While many factors are to blame, budget shortfalls and deep fiscal issues are forcing some school districts to make drastic cuts to course electives like physical education. So school-aged kids are often stuck sitting sedentary for hours at their desks with little to no reprieve.

And while the lack of movement and physical activity in our schools isn’t a new problem, a recent study underscores that the absence of exercise during the day could have an even deeper effect than just expanding your child’s waistline. Recently released research published in the prestigious Pediatrics journal proved what many parents had suspected all along — movement is good for kids, particularly in learning environments.

In the study, 500 Dutch children were closely monitored in Grades 2 and 3. One segment of the group was taught with “active” lessons, where they engaged in moderate to vigorous activity while doing math and language for 30 minutes three times a week. And the movement boosted their brain power when compared to their sedentary counterparts who learned at desks in traditional classroom settings. Those who learned with activity built into the curriculum performed better in speed, general math ability, and spelling, and were the equivalent to being four months ahead of the kids in their cohort. That’s some serious knowledge absorption.

With this undeniable boost in brain power, some local schools are ensuring that movement is a bigger component of the curriculum. Pear Tree Elementary, a new K-7 private school opening in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood this fall, finds that maintaining physical education is integral to ensure students are ready to learn and makes it an important crux of their curriculum.

“Essentially, our core focus is on the necessity for daily physical education, so having one hour of PE every day because children need to have that physical activity in order to be able to focus in classrooms,” said Pear Tree Elementary co-founder Paul Romani. “So, we use that not just as a way to develop their body, but also to help them academically in terms of concentrating.”

Schools are not the only ones trying to help reintegrate physical education back into the curriculum. Organizations and initiatives like Canadian Tire Jumpstart are partnering with some of Canada’s influential sport, wellness and health organizations to help Canadian kids get back into physical activity.

Active at School is a multi-year, multi-million dollar grassroots program that began in 2013, consisting of a broad-based group of more than 80 partners dedicated to ensuring Canadian kids receive the recommended hour of quality daily physical activity at school. Each partner brings individual networks, unique expertise, resources and marketing channels to promote the Active at School initiative with educators and decision makers across all levels of government.

Parents can also get involved in helping keep their kids active, healthy, and prepped to learn. Check with your child’s school about after-school physical activities or with your local community centre for organized sports leagues. If sports aren’t your child’s cup of tea, there’s always children’s yoga, hiking, walking, biking, and plenty of other low- or no-cost activities to get their blood pumping (and yours) regularly.

About Lindsey Peacock

Lindsey Peacock is a writer, editor, and American expat who recently transplanted to Toronto, ON. When she isn’t crafting stories, you’ll find her at the nearest dog park with her ginger husky pup.

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