Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Can Exercise Boost Student Achievement?

November 17, 2014
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How Can Exercise Boost Student Achievement?
Children learn better when they exercise — could gym equipment in classrooms be the next step to improving education? Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Getting a kid's blood pumping does more than just improve their health.

Children — especially young children — need to move. But with recess being cut back or even eliminated in elementary schools in favor of academics, kids are being forced to sit much more.

Too much sitting isn’t just bad for anyone’s health, but for youngsters, a lack of movement can negatively impact learning. TIME magazine reported children who exercised more tend to have better grades, higher test scores and performed better in math, English and reading.

That’s why several schools are finding ways to fit in exercise in the classroom. A school in Charleston County uses gym equipment in class; schools in Texas saw that standing desks improved student concentration; in Pennsylvania, a fifth-grade teacher ditched desks for yoga balls and found that it increased her students’ attention spans.

MORE: It’s Not a Stretch to See That This Yoga Teacher Makes a Difference to At-Risk Teens

And as Fast Company reports, Ward Elementary School in North Carolina has a Read and Ride program where students can hop onto exercise bikes while they read.

Incredibly, the bikes have not only helped burn excess energy, it has also boosted academic achievement. According to Fast Company, “students who had spent the most time in the program achieved an 83 percent proficiency in reading, while those who spent the least time in the program had failing scores — only 41 percent proficiency.”

The program was started five years ago by Ward Elementary counselor Scott Ertl and has expanded to 30 other schools. We previously reported that Ertl is an advocate of physical movement in the classroom and is also the inventor of Bouncy Bands that allows fidgety students to bounce their feet and stretch their legs while quietly working (and without distracting their classmates) at their desks.

“Riding exercise bikes makes reading fun for many kids who get frustrated when they read,” Ertl tells Fast Company. “They have a way to release that frustration they feel while they ride.”

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