Moving to Learn
5-IN-5 movements in five minutes done inside a school class-room-is a program devised and designed to promote the synergistic benefits summed up in the (formerly) well-known Latin phrase: “Mens sana in corpore sano.” Simply translated: A sound mind in a sound body. Most importantly, 5-IN-5 is meant to recreate and solidify the well-researched connection between these two desirable goals. A sound mind derives (directly) from a sound body; and a sound body derives (directly) from a sound mind.
The long-standing determination of western pedagogy that while exercise and education may share a school building, they must be pursued in separate rooms with separate teachers has proven itself as a failed idea. Movement and cognitive development are yin-and-yang to each other, with movement expanding the brain’s ability to comprehend and retain, and this enhanced cognitive potential permitting ever more precise and challenging movement patterns.
The idea that the body is simply the means by which the brain transports itself from place to place (famously promulgated by René Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”) crumbles beneath the weight of a century of research and evidence to the contrary. Therefore, the marginalization of all physical disciplines in our schools in the misguided notion that this will permit us the needed time and resources to achieve a “no child left behind” objective is a fool’s economy; a flawed premise. We must think-and act-holistically in developing healthier human beings. We must, literally, build better children-from the ground-upward. We must plant and nurture in all children the seeds of healthy adulthood where they can continue to derive the interdependent benefits of a healthy body and a sound mind.
Current research reflects the hypothesis that academic achievement can be enhanced by the use of regular sub-maximal exercise routines. The great majority of University based, internationally published researchers in this field have found a positive association between a child’s level of physical activity and cognitive functioning or academic success both at the time of the study and at follow-up.
Increasing physical activity is clearly not the only answer to solving the problems of overweight and academic achievement in minority communities, but it is a necessary part of the solution. Physical activity has been linked to reductions in overweight status, reduction in health risks associated with obesity, improved cognitive functioning, and potentially improved academic outcomes. There are no simple solutions, but narrowing the curriculum and reducing opportunities for children to engage in physical activity are counterproductive approaches to addressing these issues.
Thanks to advances in brain research, we now know that most of the brain is activated during physical activity – much more so than when doing seatwork. In fact, according to Jensen, sitting for more than 10 minutes at a stretch “reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue.” He tells us that this results in reduced concentration and, most likely, discipline problems.
Movement, on the other hand, increases blood vessels that allow for the delivery of oxygen, water, and glucose (“brain food”) to the brain. And this can’t help but optimize the brain’s performance!
All of this, of course, contradicts the longstanding and much-loved belief that children learn best when they’re sitting still and listening and working quietly at their desks. It also helps us understand why.
One Canadian study showed academic scores went up when a third of the school day was devoted to physical education.
A Canadian study demonstrated children participating in five hours of vigorous physical activity a week had stronger academic performance in math, English, natural sciences, and French than did children with only two hours of physical activity per week. A study of third-grade children participating in dance activities improved their reading skills by 13 percent over six months, while their peers, who were sedentary, showed a decrease of two percent.
In France, children who spent eight hours a week in physical education demonstrated better academic performance, greater independence, and more maturity than students with only 40 minutes of PE a week.
Children who participate in daily physical education have been shown to perform better academically and to have a better attitude toward school.
A study conducted by neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford determined that children who spent an extra hour a day exercising did better on exams than students who didn’t exercise.
Recent research demonstrates a direct link between fitness and intelligence, particularly in children under 16 and in the elderly.
Fourteen published studies analyzing data from approximately 58,000 students between 1967 and 2006 have investigated the link between overall participation in physical activity and academic performance. Eleven of those studies found that regular participation in physical activity is associated with improved academic performance.