Want to Learn More? Exercise! Connecting Physical Activity, Learning, and Focus in School

January 04, 2012

By Kandice Howard, HSC intern

Last month, we reported on a study showing that most U.S. schools don’t require physical education or recess. But research continues to show just how well physical activity supports students’ learning.

Recently, The New York Times reported on the positive connection between exercise and learning. The article highlights a study from the University of Rome which examined the effects of physical activities on schoolchildren. 

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The findings show that after having time to be active, students’ concentration increased in the classroom. With these findings, the study showed that exercise contributes to students’ ability to focus and perform better in school. According to the article: 

The children’s test scores rose after each of the [gym] classes. But by a wide margin, their scores increased the most after a 50-minute gym class that concentrated on endurance exercise. In that session, the young students ran, walked, skipped and otherwise kept moving for the duration of the class. Afterward, according to their test scores, they were much better able to focus. 

Much can be learned from this study in regards to students’ learning and focus. The article shows that providing students with opportunities to engage in stress-free, continuous movement leads to real gains in the classroom. As a result, students are more prepared and focused, classroom time can be used effectively for teaching, and students can perform better on tests and other schoolwork.

Healthy Schools Campaign encourages teachers and school leaders to make physical activity part of how kids learn. We’ve developed Fit to Learn, a professional development program that works with educators to incorporate health and wellness into everyday classroom routines. We also work with parents to affect change in school and district level policy around recess and physical education. To learn more, check out Fit to Learn and Parents United for Healthy Schools on our blog.

Check out the exercise & school recess section of HSC's blog for more stories on the benefits of physical activity at school.