Unfortunately the 'No Child Left Behind' campaign seems to have teachers redoing their curriculum. This means that in many public schools there are just not as many opportunities for kids to be physically active during the school day. Resources are going elsewhere and the easiest programs to cut have to do with sports and exercise. However this may not be such a good idea.
However the University of Illinois just did a study saying that kids are better served academically if they take physical education classes. This means that those recess periods and after school exercise programs are definitely needed.
A big research study, led by Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology and community health and the director of the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory at Illinois, discovered that physical activity may increase a kid's ability to pay attention. Kids who exercise more also do better on academic achievement tests.
The goal of the study was to see what type of exercise improved your child's brain. Many studies have been done this way for adults but this was the first that was done for children. That is why this study is so groundbreaking. Finally we have proof of what we kind of have known all along which is that peak academic achievement is linked with physical exercise. There goes that myth that jocks are stupid!
The kids studied were only nine years old. They performed a series of stimulus-discrimination tests known as flanker tasks, to assess their inhibitory control.
Students were tested after a 20-minute resting period; on another day, after a 20-minute session they were tested walking on a treadmill. The subjects were shown riddles anon a screen and asked to push a button to respond to in congruencies.
What they found is that kids who were walking performed the best on these test. Afterwards they were also better able to pay attention. They used an EEG to measure something called the P3 amplitude. The larger this is the more they were better able to allocate their attention.
At one point they made the test really hard by playing obnoxious noise on the subjects during the test. The kids that exercised still did well. They were able to tune out the noise and react to intellectual stimuli in a positive way.
Aside from puzzles and riddles the kids were also given an academic achievement test that included the subject areas of spelling, math and reading. Once again the kids who did the exercises aced these tests.
Do we really need more proof that we need recess, after school exercise programs and other activities that encourage physical fitness? I guess that this study proves that the healthiest brains live in the healthiest bodies.