need more physical activity in schools

Why Do We Ask Kids to Sit Down and Learn When the Research Says…

Many kids may not have ADD or ADHD but have those symptoms because their school is requiring them to sit for such long periods of time, according to Dr. Brad Johnson. Today's guest shares the latest research about physical activity and school performance. Not surprisingly, Brad speaks against “sedentary education” and the negative impact it has on learning and student health.

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In support physical education, Brad shares how classrooms in Finland take fifteen minutes for every forty five minutes of learning for recess. Thus, Finnish teachers get more done in that 45 minute period than most teachers get done in 60 minutes of sedentary learning.

Additionally, Brad also notes that only one in twelve students today has the core strength of students from the 1980's. However, this isn't just about physical activity. Interestingly, core strength effects the same area of the brain (executive functioning) as learning. Therefore, Brad says, core strength can help improve achievement.

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Show Notes:

  • What are the academic reasons we need more movement in our classrooms?
  • What did Dr. Mark Benden at Texas A&M discover that has allowed some students in classrooms to reduce their medication for ADD & ADHD?
  • Are there some simple activities that help students learn better? (Even by the desk.)
  • How do you justify the increase in physical activity to administrators and those who are evaluating you as a teacher?
  • Check out Brad's book  Learning on Your Feet: Incorporating Physical Activity in the K-8 classroom.

Who is Dr. Brad Johnson?

Dr. Brad Johnson is an international speaker in the field of education. He is author of What Schools Don't Teach: 20 Ways to Help Students Excel in School and in Life and his latest book, From School Administrator to School Leader: 15 Keys to Maximizing Your Leadership Potential.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Cori November 9, 2016 - 9:45 am

As an elementary teacher I could not agree more with this post! I found that when my students were given opportunities to have breaks more frequently, they were more focused upon returning from these breaks. I wish more schools and principals would realize this!

Tammy Twiggs December 4, 2016 - 9:24 pm

Thank you so much for including this very important podcast information regarding students and their need to be active and not sedentary for the entire school day. I am a teacher, and I recently wrote a paper for one of my grad classes in which I researched this very topic, and the information in Dr Brad Johnson’s remarks supports everything that I learned in my research.

I agree wholeheartedly that our students have to sit and be sedentary for far too long, given their ages and what research says is the time limit for a student to concentrate. To add to the conversation, for those students who are truly ADHD or who may have been diagnosed with a learning disability, their executive function is often impaired, and the long stretches they must do during reading and writing activities causes them great fatigue. It is critical for these learners to take multiple short breaks throughout the day in order to stay focused and engaged. I think we have done a great disservice to our children by reducing the time spent for recess and physical education.

My son has been diagnosed with both ADHD and a learning disability, and school can be absolutely excruciating for him because of the need to be sedentary. He is now an 8th grader, and he gets very limited outdoor time and physical education class only 2-3 times per week. My solution has been to keep him enrolled in sports, sometimes 2 sports simultaneously. I notice that when he plays sports, he is able to focus better in school and sleep better at night. If only he were able to enjoy more movement during the school day, I believe his need for ADHD medication could be reduced.

Thank your for bringing attention to this very timely subject. As a parent, I want to be able to advocate for my son. As a teacher, I want to be aware of the needs of my students and do everything within my power to help them to be successful. In addition to frequent breaks to move, I think that changing activities can aid in getting students up and moving as well.

What are your suggestions for getting school staff on board to increase physical activity for our students? Thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your response.

Vicki Davis December 6, 2016 - 2:16 pm

I find that my kids – even those without ADHD do better with sports. It helps all of us to be physically active.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere