As schools consider ways to trim their budgets in light of COVID and rising costs of education, physical fitness and its place in the curriculum has become tenuous. Yet, cuts to this could have repercussions on the wellbeing of students both short and long term. The benefits of physical activity in schools are many.
The CDC recommends that children and adolescents 6-17 years old engage in 60 minutes or more of vigorous activity each day. With the postponement of many extracurriculars and sports for youth in the last year, this is harder for many to accomplish. Additionally, the added hours of sitting have escalated as online school remains prevalent across the country and everyday movement has decreased. Students are missing the normal, everyday movement that’s part of life in school. The reliance on and benefits of physical activity in schools has never been more needed.
Exercise releases endorphins that regulate moods, pleasure, and pain. For students who may struggle with impulse control, physical activity in school provides a calming effect that helps them modulate their emotions better. Symptoms of depression and anxiety are also reduced with regular physical activity in schools along with reduction of stress in general. Regular physical activity leads to a sense of accomplishment and a sense of control over their life, which can otherwise be lacking.
Again, according to the CDC, students who get adequate physical activity in schools have better school attendance, better grades, concentration and cognitive performance (memory), and classroom behaviors. Overall, it builds brain cells and improves academics more broadly. These benefits are acutely noted directly after the completion of physical activity, shown by quicker problem solving and more complex thinking challenges. These outcomes are notable and are a strong argument for including physical activity in schools.
Physical Health Benefits
A few of the many benefits of physical activity in schools include cardiovascular fitness, building strong bones and muscles, and more serious disease prevention. When students stay at a healthy weight, they are better able to prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and other heart related conditions. Better sleep is an additional benefit of vigorous physical activity during the day for students.
Physical activity in schools through physical education classes or extracurriculars includes an opportunity to build strong relational skills. As students learn to be part of a team and cooperate with their classmates, they build stronger social skills both inside and outside that activity. This dedicated time during the school day provides opportunities for those who wouldn’t otherwise participate in a team sport to do so during a structured part of their day. Students also learn self-discipline as they participate in group activities.
For students who are not currently in a physical school building, the benefits of physical activity in schools needs to be compensated for by involving parents and educators alike. Through creative solutions, students can continue to be emotionally, academically, physically, and relationally well.
Check out this resource if you’re looking to boost student activity if you’re currently learning in a virtual environment.