OCM BOCES’ Healthy Schools NY (HSNY) program was extremely fortunate to have been able to bring Dr. John Ratey and Mr. Paul Zientarski, the stars of the video you just watched, to Central NY in March 2012 for a day-long workshop. Hearing the Ratey-Zientarski duo speak about the Naperville district’s academic transformation was not only exciting and inspiring—it was practical. As you heard Mr. Zientarski say, “…And it’s all about getting your heart rates up. It’s one thing to exercise because you want to look good…you want to be healthy, but now when you throw in the fact that you’re going to literally create more brain cells every time you do an aerobic exercise, it gives you another reason to go about doing it.” This is a WIN-WIN-WIN for everyone: schools, public health, and students at every grade level!
The idea that physical exercise can have a positive impact on academic achievement, increased attention spans and engagement; reduced behavioral issues and absenteeism; reduced stress and anxiety (should I go on?) is not completely “new news.” The research began many years ago and more and more studies are underway. And, there is no denying this fact: if there is anything close to that of “magic bullet status” in contributing to the solution of our academic and health woes, it is physical activity/aerobic exercise! It is a no-brainer, pardon the pun.
So, if this is NOT new news, the question begs:
Why aren’t more school districts capitalizing on this research?
Those of us involved with educational institutions directly or indirectly are aware that this fall has brought some B.I.G. changes (aka APPR, SLOs, LATs), so the purpose of this blog entry is NOT to suggest that you reinvent any wheels. You already have enough on your plates, so remember the K-I-S-S principle: Keep it Simple, Smart (depending on your context). We’re not talking about buying expensive treadmills here (unless you want to, of course, but that can come later). The goal is just to get students’ heart rates up—jump ropes will do just fine! (If you haven’t jumped rope in a while, believe me, it works!) And, they’re FUN! As Mr. Voiceover on the PBS video clip states, “The big lesson in Naperville, however, isn’t about having spiffy facilities. It’s that exercise is as much an academic undertaking as an athletic one.”
But, don’t misunderstand, a few turns of the rope once a week along with your outdated rendition of “Miss Mary Mack” isn’t going to make a genius out of a failing student. I don’t mean to oversimplify. There IS a difference between 1) physical activity and 2) a regular P.E. class and 3) fitness-based P.E. (e.g. Naperville’s LRPE program). Where are you on this spectrum? If movement isn’t on your current radar, start looking into how you can incorporate physical activity into preexisting classroom lessons. If students in your P.E. classes are stationery while you are explaining the skill, activity, etc., have them jog in place instead. Remember, this is about changing our culture…..our sedentary norm.
Any movement is positive and beneficial.***
So, start creating your vision + take baby steps = PARADIGM SHIFT. Just do whatever you have to do to get your kids MOVING, and watch that BDNF (“Miracle Gro” for the brain) do its thing.
P.S. If you’re one of those, “Do as I say, not as I do” folks because you don’t exercise regularly yourself (for whatever reason), you might want to rethink that. There is no age limit on the cognitive/mental benefits from movement—same holds true whether you’re eight or 80!
P.S.S. ***Want to read the research? Check out these links:
- http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=2147490622&menu_id=692 (article) & http://docserver.ingentaconnect.com/deliver/connect/aahperd/02701367/v81n3x2/s4.pdf?expires=1349879874&id=70863979&titleid=41000014&accname=Guest+User&checksum=65FA7BECF7A72507EED774D4E181D270 (study)