What's your memory of gym class from when you were a young student? It may induce a panicked feeling of being picked last for a kickball team, a fond recollection of sinking your first three-pointer in basketball, or flashbacks of pain from getting hit in a game of dodge ball.
Physical education today is moving towards a fitness focus instead of a sports focus, ensuring inclusion of all students (and hopefully avoiding some of the extreme feelings mentioned above). Organizations such as Sparking Life are working with schools to find PE curriculum that will “optimize learning, improve motivation, activate impulse control, moderate mood, build self-esteem…and make our students want to be in school!” The organization cites research showing that exercise and movement improves learning and academic performance. To learn more about their work, watch this video about the success story at Naperville Central High School, where students raise their heart rate in the gym before their most difficult classes.
As a teacher, how can you incorporate this into your classroom? Allow time for short stretch breaks, a brief yoga sequence, or a song or chant with movements. Also, check out this EdWeek post to see how regular breaks can benefit student health.