According to Nancy Swayzee, medical exercise specialist, startling statistics on juvenile obesity and diabetes are symptomatic of the low priority given to physical-education programs in schools. She believes we are failing to recognize the link between physical movement and learning, behavioral management and attention.
What can explain the increasing numbers of children unable to focus attention or control behavior? According to Nancy, these children often also exhibit erratic, jerky, poorly controlled movements.
What’s missing from children’s development? Why are increasing numbers of children diagnosed with attention deficit? What changes explain their increasing inability to control their behavior?
Nancy’s views are straightforward: the most obvious change in elementary education is the decline in physical activity. With the exception of those involved in sports, children who get home from school and go outside to play are few indeed. Television and computer gameseven homeworkreplace physical activities. Sedentary activities require little muscle use.
Hours of sitting in front of televisions or computers unintentionally create a population of children with weak abdominal muscles and poor posturea path leading to back and neck problems as adults.
According to Nancy, research reveals that the same brain area responsible for coordination of physical movement also coordinates thought. Catching a football and solving calculus problems exercises the same part of the brain, suggesting that academic performance is enhanced with physical movement.
Nancy strongly urges parents and teachers to become educated about the enormous impact of physical activity on a child’s ability to learn.
I would add my own perspective to Nancy’s; that is, to have the greatest impact on our children and grandchildren, we must become fit ourselvesthrough exercising and making appropriate food choices. In addition, we must insist on daily exercise if we are to help children grow intellectually while building strong, healthy bodies.