My mother used to regularly remind me as a child that it was “A healthy mind in a healthy body” as poet and satirist Juvenal is purported to have written — and for this reason encouraged me to not only keep up with my studies but to also participate in activities of the physical fitness variety. When I was at The Peddie School from 1993 to 1996, we were required to take courses in physical fitness or to participate in one of their competitive teams.
For the most part I chose to join competitive teams in which I both had interest and was not concerned about not being good enough to join — the Winter and Spring Track were my preferred sports because even if I wasn’t the best, there were many others on the team who were better. I didn’t join the Swim team because they spent so much time in the water that their hair started going yellow-blonde. As a result of my own childhood experiences I was rather surprised when I found out that in California, there is a sizable number of students who are not participating in physical education at all.
The benefits of physical exercise are innumerable but in the context of a school it is especially important. Children spend hours every day sitting at desks with little to no movement other than walking from classroom to classroom. Considering the garbage that gets put on the plates of said children come lunch time, it is especially important that they spend some time moving to get their heart rates up and burning some calories.
Moreover, there are multiple ties that link physical activity to better thinking and overall mental health, two things that are paramount to doing well in school. Even a good amount of walking — not just the movement from classroom to classroom is brain healthy
Walking is especially good for your brain, because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reach your brain. Walking is not strenuous, so your leg muscles don’t take up extra oxygen and glucose like they do during other forms of exercise. As you walk, you effectively oxygenate your brain. Maybe this is why walking can “clear your head” and help you to think better.
Another study ties exercise to relief in symptoms of depression and anxiety — something kids in school can certainly use.
If you have a child in school it is worth investigating to what degree they are getting exercise in school — and to what degree they should be supplementing it with physical activity at home, be it a little ball playing or just going out for a brisk walk around a park.