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Unformatted text preview: © 2009 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois Physically Active Play and Cognition An Academic Matter? Jacob Sattelmair and John J. Ratey The authors discuss the growing evidence that strenuous physical activity is not only healthy for students but improves their academic performance. Based on such re- search, they argue that schools in the United States need to stop eliminating physical- education programs under the current political pressures to emphasize academics and instead to reform traditional physical education. Modern physical education should move away from its competitive-sports approach to one that employs a wide range of play involving strenuous physical activity for every student. There is much discussion both in the growing body of play literature and in public discourse regarding the role of physical activity in healthy child develop- ment. Learning, memory, concentration, and mood all have a significant bearing on a student’s academic performance, and there is increasing evidence that physi- cal activity enhances each. Moreover, because children and adolescents engage in physical activity primarily through physically strenuous play, an evaluation of the relation between physical activity, cognition, and academic performance helps us better appreciate the role of play in healthy child development. The potential for physical activity to mitigate childhood obesity and related health risks has often been discussed in scientific and public forums. Evidence that exercise may also improve cognitive development and academic perfor- mance provides yet another reason to promote physical activity for students. More specifically, it argues the need for quality physical education in schools because it allows all students to engage in regular physical activity. Although the literature in the field of study called physical education distinguishes physical education, physical activity, and play from each other, for the purpose of this article, we conceive of physical education as a forum during which students have opportunities to engage in physical activity. A good portion of that activity we consider physically strenuous play. Evidence to support the benefits of exercise for the brain has been mounting 366 A M E R I C A N J O U R N A L O F P L A Y • Wi n t e r 2 0 0 9 in the academic fields related to the subject—in molecular science, in cognitive science, in behavioral science, in systems neuroscience, and in psychology—and directly in the schools our children attend. In this article, we present nascent findings regarding the effects of physical activity, both within and outside of the context of physical education, on students’ cognitive ability and academic performance. We then introduce a modern model for physical education, one which emphasizes regular exercise that is cognitively, socially, and aerobically demanding, and one which also provides opportunities for students to engage in physically strenuous play. We then describe preliminary results from schools in physically strenuous play....
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- Spring '11
- physical activity, academic performance