Keep Moving: The Power of Physical Activity Before School and the Impact on Children, Youth and Families

February 16, 2017

hall 300Physical activity has been shown to enhance learning, concentration, memory and mood, positioning children to be better learners--but how can educators fit it in at school while also adhering to academic accountability standards?

In "Keep Moving: The Power of Physical Activity Before School and the Impact on Children, Youth and Families," in the 2017 World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry Magazine, Georgia Hall, senior research scientist at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), looks at the implementation of BOKS (Build our Kids’ Success), a before-school physical activity program, in eight elementary schools.

During the time kids were participating in the BOKS program, Hall writes, they averaged 17 more minutes per day of moderate-to vigorous physical activity than non-participating children, making it clear that children who regularly engaged in before school physical activity were generally more physically active than those who did not.

This extra activity had a significant impact on working memory (the ability to remember and manage information) and shift (the ability to transition from one situation, activity, or aspect of a problem to another). Working memory and shift enable children to hold information, complete tasks, carry out instructions, and transition from one task to another, meaning that participating in physical activity before school has multiple benefits: not only do children get essential moderate-to-vigorous exercise, but they also build skills linked to academic achievement.

Before-school physical activity programs like BOKS, Hall concludes, "may offer a promising model for how schools, families, and out-of-school programs can work together to increase children’s physical activity and healthy eating, and promote health and wellness within families through the child’s participation."

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The HOST site is managed by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College

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