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Overweight kids+exercise=improved math skills

1195445636200577762johnny_automatic_playing_ball_svg_medIn addition to asserting that it “controls weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity,” Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight childhood obesity can add “improves math skills” to the list of reasons to exercise.

Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta, led a study in which researchers analyzed MRI brain scans of 7 to 11- year-old overweight participants after they were randomly assigned to complete 0, 20 or 40 minutes of non-competitive physical activity daily after school, HealthDay News reports.

Results of the study, which was published in the January edition of Health Psychology, showed that the amount of daily exercise positively correlated with increased activity in parts of the brain associated with executive functions, such as complex thinking and reasoning.

The results confirm what school officials should have already known and implemented – the need for a school-wide emphasis on exercise. Physical activity serves an important role “in helping kids stay physically well and mentally sharp,” Davis told e! Science News.

One high school near Chicago has used exercise outside gym class “jump start [students’] brains,” as one physical education teacher put it, for more than five years.

Naperville Central High School Students begin the day by attending gym class and continue to use yoga balls and treadmills throughout the day. As of last year, math scores had increased by 21 percent since the program was implemented and on average, students were reading more than one year beyond their grade level, ABC news reports.

According to the Nemours Foundation, 1 out of 3 American kids are now considered overweight or obese.  This statistic is unbelievable, and is can be greatly attributed greatly to what is known as the sedentary problem.

Children are now spending 5 and a half hours on average in front of screens, which include TVs, computers and video games, according to the Nemours Foundation.

Such behavior “is compromising children’s ability and achievement,” Davis told HealthDay News.

Another resource for parents and school officials is the American Psychology Association’s Tips for Acting Boldly to Change Diet and Exercise for Kids (ABCDE), 1,200 copies of which were distributed to 12 elementary schools in Tallahassee, Fl., in January.

The fight against childhood obesity requires the cooperation of parents and schools. Parents should set limitations on their children’s sedentary activities at home and schools should create comprehensive programs that promote active youth.

In other words, the children of American should be taught to live by the words of the ancient Roman poet Juvenal — Mens sana in corpore sano—In a sound body, a sound mind.

Melissa Major, Spring Intern

Naomi Dillon|February 17th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , , |


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