Amy Collins, OTR,
MOTManager, School-Based Therapy Services, Harris County
Dept. of Education
It’s plain to
see the lack of movement opportunities our students have at school these days.
Some believe that more time spent on academics and less time spent on physical
activity will lead to improved achievement test scores in students. However,
research supports the idea that physical activity leads to improved school
performance in a variety of ways, and spending time during the school day on
recess and physical education does not negatively impact test scores (CDC,
A report from the Institute of Medicine (2013) suggests that active
children are better able to attend, process information more quickly, and
perform better on standardized academic tests. Studies at the cellular level
indicate that physical activity stimulates production of new nerve cells
involved in learning and memory, encourages nerve cells to interconnect and
communicate in new ways, and optimizes brain function, especially the executive
functions. In addition, there is research to support connections between
physical activity and improved mental health (Taliaferro et al., 2008).
There are many ways schools can increase movement opportunities. Making
time for recess, PE classes that focus on teaching personal fitness, providing
opportunities for physical activity before and after school, and incorporating
and increasing tolerance to movement in the classroom are just some solutions
schools can implement.
School-based occupational and physical therapists can help advocate
for more physical activity and provide specific strategies to help students
increase activity levels, for example, working with teachers to develop lessons
that require students to stand or move around the room. Here are some terrific
resources to help you get started:
Taliaferro, Rienzo, Miller, Pigg, & Dodd (2008). High school youth
and suicide risk: Exploring protection afforded through physical activity and
spot participation. Journal of School Health, 78, 545-553.
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The academic benefits of physical