When schools cut physical education they not only make kids more inactive but they miss a great learning opportunity as well. Recent research out of the University of South Carolina implemented a daily 40-minute physical education program for elementary children in a low-scoring school in Charsleston, South Carolina. Prior to this the children had 40 minutes of physical education per week.
All children moved through stations that coupled movement skills with basic academic skills. First and second graders traced shapes on the ground while sitting on scooters and hopped through ladders naming the colors on each rung. Third through sixth graders used a treadmill that played geopgraphy lessons on a TV monitor as the student ran through the scene. They also had a rock climbing wall with numbers that changed to help the students work on basic math skills. Though this equipment may be more than most school can afford, some of the ideas could be duplicated with less expensive equipment.
Researchers compared the state standardized test scores for the year before and the year after the physical education program. State test scores rose from 55% to 68.5%. This adds to the growing evidence that physical activity not only improves physical fittnes but it can help to improve academic achievement and cognitive skills, too.