Academic performance, as we have learned over the years, is the result of a combination of widely different factors and circumstances, many of which are outside the educational institution’s control. Many studies have shown that physical activity is beneficial for overall health. It encourages blood flow and strengthens the body, as well as the brain. This remains true throughout our lives, but during the formative years of children and growing adolescents, it also plays an important part in brain development.

The Benefits of PE

Physical Education is one of the ways that institutions all around the world tackle the sedentary nature of classroom learning. It is an investment in providing students with some form of activity and socialization, engaging their bodies and brains. Relevant literature suggests that this form of activity is related to a healthier body and a healthier mind. Whether this activity results in a change in body mass or muscle build is irrelevant, and the scales in which we measure brain development have a long way to go in considering growth in children with developmental disorders. 

The very act of structured motion for about an hour every day leads to positive changes in health. Columbia University’s Charles Basch explores its benefits in a recent essay, where we can underline the increased oxygen flow to the brain, which in turn increases neurotransmitters. PE activities enhance concentration in complicated lessons. The activity also leads the brain to release endorphins and serotonin, “happy chemicals” that improve students’ mood and their openness to focus and engage with the material. They also teach students teamwork and dedication in the face of hard tasks.

Graduation and GPA

In The Case for High School Activities, a study and exploration conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the authors identified additional benefits for high school students. They saw healthier behaviors develop, as well as a sense of belonging. It also quotes a few studies that revealed higher graduation rates and higher GPAs in schools that encourage athletic activities. It even suggests a positive impact after graduation, engaging students with their community.

A holistic educational experience in K-12 is designed to provide a comprehensive curriculum, but it also must consider how effectively the students are engaging with the content. Furthermore, complementary physical activity can take place within the classroom. A paper by the CDC explores the way that some teachers have incorporated physical activity outside PE classes and recess, like short bursts of physical activity lasting 5–20 minutes or exploring learning through activity. These commonly need little to no additional resources.

Staying Active

There are many ways to invest in and incorporate physical activity and wellness into the curriculum. PE is a surefire way to add at least one hour of activity every week. Recess gives the students time to rest in between lessons, but not every student will take the opportunity to engage in physical activity. It is worth mentioning that not all students feel comfortable participating in sports. They could benefit from well-coordinated calisthenics, which are certain to engage their muscles and make use of their excess energy.

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