Increased Physical Activity Leads to Increased Learning

There is a longstanding link between physical activity and student learning that schools, teachers, and students can take advantage of to enhance learning. From Educating the Student Body:

  • Evidence suggests that increasing physical activity and physical fitness may improve academic performance and that time in the school day dedicated to recess, physical education class, and physical activity in the classroom may also facilitate academic performance.
  • Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These topics depend on efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness.

The link between physical activity supports engaging students in physical education classes, unstructured play at recess, and physical activity in the classroom. This report from the CDC is an excellent synopsis of the available research on linking physical activity and improved academic performance.

In some cases, physical activity itself can be an effective vehicle for helping students learn abstract concepts. For example, Energy Theater is a fantastic tool for helping students develop an innate understanding of key energy concepts, including energy transformation, transfer between objects, and especially conservation. By acting out different forms and amounts of energy in objects, students are able to understand the flow of energy within a system more deeply. The experience often helps students to generate their own understandings rather than wait to be provided with information from the teacher or a textbook.

A small selection of ideas for incorporating physical activity into your classroom are available below:

Have a favorite technique for increasing student learning through physical activity? Share it in the comments below!


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