Fitness in the classroom
We all know that regular physical activity is important for children to promote a healthy lifestyle and decrease risks of disease and other illnesses, but in today’s digital-centered age, getting the recommended hours of activity can be challenging. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans created by the Department of Health and Human Services, Children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity, daily. However, it was reported in the 2016 U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth that only 21% of children and adolescents participated in the recommended hour of physical activity.
Not only does regular physical activity help keep children physically healthy, but also mentally healthy. Studies show that daily physical activity and regular physical activity in the classroom increases academic performance. According to the CDC, students who are active tend to have better grades, increased school attendance, better memories, and stay on task longer. Brief physical activity in the classroom has also been found to improve student’s attention, classroom behavior and test scores. According to 9 studies analyzed by the CDC, 8 of them found positive associations between physical activities in the classroom and increased cognitive skills. The physical activities ranged from using a physical activity during a lesson to providing a physical activity break from school work. These physical activity breaks showed increased ability related to memory, mood, concentration, and test scores.
In Finland, teachers have been integrating physical activity regularly into their classrooms since the 1960s. It is common in Finnish schools to have a 15-minute break after every 45 minutes of school work. These breaks are said to help students stay focused throughout the school day, while also giving the teachers’ time to prepare for the next lesson, or take a break themselves. For more information about the interesting differences in the Finnish school day, check out this article written for the National Education Association.
While using the Finnish model of teaching may be impossible in your classroom, there are a variety of websites that offer engaging activity ideas and useful resources to get students of all ages moving while in the classroom, whether it is an actual lesson plan or a break from learning:
- Take 10 is a great resource for grade specific activity programs that can be purchased for the classroom.
- Your Therapy Source also has a list of 10 simple activities to encourage physical activity in the classroom, as well as an entire site of free and available-for-purchase activities to get students moving while in the classroom or take a break from lessons.
- Action for Healthy Kids offers great information, ideas and tips to integrate physical activities directly into lesson plans.
- GoNoodle is a great resource that has hundreds of engaging video lesson plans that get students moving.
- Education.com also offers games, lessons, exercises, and activities to stay active in the classroom while learning.
- Integrate yoga into the classroom! This blog post from DoYouYoga lists 5 ways to bring yoga into classrooms, and you can also check out Yogakids.com for more toolkit and products for purchase. There are a variety of free resources, including YouTube, which can also be used.