Integrating Physical Activity into the Classroom

Although school children should have quality physical education at least 30 minutes a day, children need to accumulate at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity (PA) to be healthy and fit. In order for most children to reach the recommended level of PA, children should be given more opportunities to move during the school day, particularly in the classroom setting. There is strong evidence showing a link between PA and important learning skills such as concentration, on-task behavior, attendance, and a growing body of research that are finding positive links between PA and physical fitness and improved academic performance.

One way to include classroom movement opportunities is to integrate movement while teaching other subject content across the curriculum. In doing this, students can simultaneously be physically active while practicing skills in language arts, math, science, and other content areas. For students who are kinesthetic learners, they may learn more and stay on task longer when movement is integrated. Moving while learning allows students success in both the psychomotor and cognitive domains.

In addition to allowing students to move while learning academic content, children should also be given opportunities to “just move” - taking physical activity break throughout the school day.

Physical Activity and Academic Performance

There is a growing body of research that shows positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance and achievement including cognitive functioning, academic behaviors, and comprehension (USDHHS, CDC 2018). Scientists believe that exercise contributes to brain development. Physical activity is believed to improve attention, reduce anxiety and depression, and optimize the brain for learning (Ratey, 2008; Jensen, 2000; hannaford, 1995). All these researchers support the need for many physical activity opportunities throughot the day to promote learning and increase student achievement.

*See complete reference listing in Research & Resources

United States Department of Health and Human Services
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans - 2018