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Less Talking About and More Moving in Schools.

It seems we see headlines such as "physically active kids do better in school" or "exercise improves test scores" or even, "kids should sit less and move more in schools" such that the support for the association between physical activity and academic success has never received greater attention. The notion that increased physical activity would adversely affect academic success has been largely debunked with, instead, greater support for using daily physical activity to enhance academic success. Many prominent national organizations such as SHAPE America, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American College of Sports Medicine, offer support that physically active and healthy children not only have better attendance, but also greater focus to complete assignments, improved concentration, memory, and decision-making, and finally, superior academic behavior being less disruptive than their sedentary counterparts. In fact, a new CDC campaign has the catchy slogan, "The More They Burn, the Better They Learn" ( to emphasize the importance of physical activity to academic learning.

The Fall 2017 Virginia Journal shared a literature review on this topic (Shelton, 2017), thus the purpose of this current article is to go beyond the theoretical "talking about" the benefits of increased physical activity in school settings to providing more practical suggestions of how to "move more" during the school day. Meeting the national guideline of 60 minutes of daily physical activity can be a pretty daunting task with few districts offering daily physical education K through grade 12 (or grade 10 here in Virginia) and many others reducing or removing daily recess.

Progressive teachers and schools are going beyond simply beefing up traditional physical education classes, but are also incorporating before and after school physical activity and most notably, in-school physical activity as part of Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs. The terms "active academics" or "active classrooms" are now widely understood and many companies (notably GOPHER and FLAGHOUSE, among others) have been quick to supply resources such as standing desks, balance ball desk chairs, fidget busters that allow students to move their feet under a desk, and exhaustive resource guides with a myriad of movement activities to serve as short, classroom-based activity breaks throughout the school day. Two popular examples include the Energizers in Schools (Maher, et al. 2006) program which is part of a larger, state-wide effort in North Carolina to improve the overall health of state residents and the Take10 activity guides (developed by the ILSI Research Foundation and available through FLAGHOUSE).

Of particular interest in this article is sharing results from the recently reported Statewide Health Improvement Partnership evaluation study by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education, Enhancing Physical Activity Practices in 14 Elementary Schools ( The initial background information and planning used to evaluate the physical activity practices in the 14 schools was originally packaged into a school implementation toolkit known as "Moving Matters" available as part of the Active Schools Minnesota initiative ( physicalactivity/movingmatters.html). The author of this article hopes this might serve as a springboard for the Commonwealth of Virginia to consider a similar state-wide initiative. The author realizes VAHPERD has supported and promoted the Let's Move Active Schools program and the Virginia Action for Healthy Kids program, but greater collaboration, perhaps a joint initiative between VAHPERD, the Virginia Department of Education, and the Virginia Department of Health similar to what Minnesota has done is needed.

In the Minnesota study, students who met recommendations (Healthy Fitness Zone) for aerobic fitness (as measured with the FitnessGram PACER) and body composition (as measured with BMI) were 24 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and 27 percent more likely to be proficient in math. Teachers also reported positive behavioral changes including on-task behavior. The larger Active Schools Minnesota initiative strategy mirrored other physical activity initiatives with a focus on active transportation (walking and riding a bike) to and from school (Safe Routes to Schools), active recess, classroom physical activity breaks, high-quality physical education, and out-of-school time physical activity.

As part of their active classrooms initiative, elementary teachers incorporated physical activity breaks that included running in place, dancing, hopping side-to-side, etc., as displayed in videos provided through YouTube (simply search "Jammin' Minute" or "Just Dance" for examples), as part of the GoNoodle (https:// program, and the Adventure to Fitness ( program. As part of their active recess initiative, elementary teachers designated play zones on pavement areas specific to games such as four-square, hopscotch, tetherball, and basketball. Other areas included portable equipment such as jump ropes and hula hoops. The school physical education teachers were critical allies in promoting active recess by providing activity guides for the classroom teachers and even teaching developmentally appropriate versions of games such as foursquare at the beginning of the school year that children could play during recess.

The Minnesota Study concluded: "Teachers reported that students enjoyed being active and that they observed positive behavioral changes in the classroom, however, full implementation of the active schools strategies was often limited by time and space constraints" (p. 4). The key point here, at least according to this author, is that the classroom teachers were willing to try something (even if just a YouTube video once or twice a day) and those classroom teachers reported that their physical education teacher colleague was a key resource in helping them integrate daily physical activity into their classrooms.

The call to action seems clear, the evidence supporting daily physical activity as part of a high-quality physical education program, but also as part of classroom physical activity breaks, active recess, and active transportation to and from school, signal a time for physical educators in Virginia to talk less about what we already know ... that daily physical activity is a good thing for all sorts of reasons, but also for us to help our classroom colleagues to make moving more the focus throughout the school day.


ILSI Research Foundation. Take10 classroom-based physical activity program. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

Maher, M.T., Kenny, R.K., Shields, A.T., Scales, D.P., & Collins, G. (2006). (Rev. ed). Energizers: Classroom-based physical activities. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from:

Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health. Moving Matters: An Active Schools Implementation Toolkit. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Education and Health, 2013.

Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Education. Enhancing Physical Activity Practices in 14 Elementary School: An Evaluation of the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) Active Schools Minnesota Initiative, 2017.

Shelton, S. (2017). Active academics: Standing up for learning. The Virginia Journal, 38(2), 19-20.

Jon Poole, Ed.D, Professor, Physical and Health Education Teacher Education Program, Department of Health and Human Performance, Radford University
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Author:Poole, Jon
Publication:VAHPERD Journal
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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