According to the US Department of Health and Human Services there is burgeoning research that shows that physical activity helps with the symptoms of ADHD. Combine 45 min. of daily exercise with coaching and tutoring and these students can thrive. We can see how this would benefit the nearly 10% of students who are diagnosed, but how would instituting daily physical activity in an entire school system benefit the whole student population?
At a Tuesday press conference, Dr. Julian Reed, Ed.D associate professor at Furman University released the findings from a study on fitness and cognitive relationship. Dr. Reed said that “Federal mandates have placed increased importance on academic achievement, leading many schools to modify their curricula to provide students with the necessary means to improve academic performance while leading to reductions in instruction time for physical education”. However the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent and School Health revealed that “there is substantial evidence that physical activity can improve academic achievement”.
Legacy Charter School of Greenville which is the only school in South Carolina to provide 45 min. of daily physical education for each student was the host of this conference and luncheon. William Brown, Legacy Board Chairman, and a former high school basketball coach said “the goal for every student is to become a college graduate and enjoy a physically active lifestyle.” Brown brought the idea of incorporating a daily exercise regimen for students, back from a visit to the Cooper Institute, a Dallas-based organization that is a pioneer in the field of aerobic fitness.
Dr. Reed’s two-year study examining the links between physical activity and cognition which compared students from Legacy Charter School with two other local Title I schools (controls), revealed a striking contrast. Using Perceptual Speed and Fluid Intelligence tests to assess problem-solving in situations and developmental differences in cognitive abilities yielded results that showed Legacy Charter School students showed significant increases in 59% of these cognitive measures compared to only 25% for control school students. Legacy students improved on 92% of fitness measures, compared to only 8% for control school students. Furthermore control middle school students showed decreased performance on 42% of the fitness measures.
Connie Tyne, LMSW of the Cooper Institute which provided the physical education curricula and criteria for the study said that 75% of American high school graduates would be disqualified from Military, Police, or Firefighting services due to poor physical fitness. Tyne said that it was expected that fully one third of Americans born after the year 2000 would develop type II diabetes. Given these dire predictions she believes that the leadership exemplified by the Legacy Board of Directors could be a “spark for South Carolina and the entire nation to change the future for all”.
The South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais explained that statewide standardization directives tie the hands of local school administrators, but that charter schools could be a laboratory for the type of change that could put South Carolina in the forefront of education reform. Combining daily movement exercises that challenge the brain, with good nutrition is a proven formula for significant improvements in educational performance.