Exercise is good for class

2014-10-01 00:00

KZN schools have endorsed a recent study by the University of Illinois, which shows exercise boosts academic performance.

The study was done over nine months with 221 prepubescent children and found those who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day after school saw “substantial improvements in their ability to pay attention and avoid distraction”.

“Those in the exercise group received a structured intervention that was designed for the way kids like to move,” said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman, who led the study.

“On average, kids’ heart rates corresponded with a moderate to vigorous level of exercise intensity, and they averaged about 4 500 steps during the two-hour intervention,” Hillman said.

“Kids in the intervention group improved two-fold compared to the wait-list kids in terms of their accuracy on cognitive tasks,” he said.

“And we found widespread changes in brain function, which relate to the allocation of attention during cognitive tasks and cognitive processing speed,” he said.

Some schools in KZN said that they already recognised that extramural activities and physical education were important, and formed an essential element of the regular school timetable. The Witness approached various schools in the province and they concurred with the findings of the study.

Colin Madgin, headmaster of Penzance Primary School, said that 70 minutes was a good place to start and that the school encouraged its pupils to participate in various sporting codes offered, throughout the week.

“From Grade 1 to 7, pupils have physical education in their timetable. We have various sporting codes for each season from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday, from which pupils have a choice to participate in,” he said.

Deputy principal of Maritzburg College Graham Bennet said that if a child is physically fit, they concentrate for longer as their bodies are well and healthy.

“We agree with the survey as a correlation between sportsmen’s achievements and their ability to concentrate has an important value,” said Bennet.

“Our students get an average of 60 minutes of exercise a day in some form or another as we offer varied sports.”

Glenwood Preparatory deputy principal Charles Morgan said that the school was big on sport and that their pupils did about an hour of exercise a week, depending on the child.

“Whether it boosts concentration is subjective, but it’s good to have a well-rounded child with all-round development, a child who is well balanced,” he said.

Kearsney College’s marketing director, Robert Carpenter, said that the school provided about 14 sporting codes to pupils so they were active and had a balance in their lives.

“Sport and exercise encourage a lot of skills in a child like confidence, social, teamwork and self development,” Carpenter said.

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