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Wellness Wednesday: Exercise and Academics

The benefits of exercise and being active are endless — improved brain health, alleviated anxiety and depression, restful, rejuvenating sleep, weight management, reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and more!   

With a lack of exercise now causing as many deaths as smoking, and with 42% of adults and 19% of young people (ages 2 to 19) in the United States being obese, engagement in some type of physical activity every day is more important than ever. (Sitting is the new smoking, in terms of health effects.)

Research being done at Harvard Medical School has shown physical activity and having a healthy body is a strong determinant in academic success, especially in the areas of math, reading and english. These findings determined that exercise not only helps the brain get ready to learn, but it makes retaining information easier.  Exercise can be the best defense against a lot of the common mental health issues with which students struggle, such as stress, anxiety and panic disorders, depression, and ADHD. The same study showed that students show the most marked results when they are in classes of 10-20 students and when the exercise occurs early in the day to mid-day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention support these findings and, in addition, suggest that students need more physical activity. The CDC has seen the increased focus on testing and “Common Core Standards” result in a decline in physical activity in schools to the detriment of students’ health and academic success.  Research findings by the NCBI suggest that the more fitness components (cardio, strength, endurance, flexibility) a person engages in, the greater the academic performance.  

So, grab a partner, a friend, a stranger and take a PE class winter term. Choose from Walk for Health, circuit weight training, body conditioning, Zumba, yoga, or karate.  Get credit, get fit, have fun!

Cindy Falk is a faculty member and advisor in Health and Human Performance

Image by storyset on Freepik

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