Safe Routes Scoop
Physical Activity’s Positive
Effect on Learning

Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, the Alliance’s mission is to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity nationwide by 2015 and to empower kids to make healthy lifestyle choices. Many children are not getting the 60 minutes of daily moderate activity recommended by the Surgeon General and since the federal “No Child Left Behind” law was enacted in 2001, many public schools have shifted resources away from physical education (PE) and recess. Given that schools are powerful places to shape the health, education and well-being of children, the Alliance promotes physical activity and healthy eating before, during, and after school, believing that healthy students are better able to concentrate on their work, attend school on a regular basis and perform better in class. 

 

Schools that have worked with the Alliance have taken a variety of measures to encourage students to be more active, ranging from providing stationary bikes in each classroom to streaming fitness videos through the school’s closed circuit television network. Whatever approach is chosen, Perry said, “Schools need to create an environment that is conducive for physical activity. The object is to make physical activity a norm, not an exception.” While researchers do not exactly understand the correlation between physical activity and academics, Perry can cite a first hand experience where increased physical

activity seemed to have a positive effect on students. “One middle school experienced decreased disciplinary referrals when they increased physical education to five days a week and added recess after lunch,” she said. While not possible in this case to conclude whether test scores improved due to increased physical activity, Perry feels it is reasonable to conclude that less disciplinary referrals led to more continuity in lessons and a better learning experience for the school’s students.

 

Physical Activity and Safe Routes to School
To increase physical activity, Perry feels that “the most instrumental action a school can take is to create a policy or guideline that requires physical activity before, after, and during the school day. Schools can maximize time for physical activity by utilizing a variety of activities.” As time for physical activity during the school day is reduced, maximizing exercise before and after school becomes more important than ever. Walking or bicycling to school is a great opportunity for children to get daily exercise they need to improve their health as well as their cognitive functioning. By encouraging more students to walk and bike to school and making those choices safe and appealing, Perry feels that “Safe Routes to School programs can capitalize on an oft-missed opportunity to increase the amount of physical activity for a significant

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