December 6, 2017
Active elementary school students more likely to have healthy weight, good grades
Elementary students who meet national recommendations for aerobic fitness are much more likely to have a healthy weight and have better academic outcomes, according to a new study involving Minnesota kids.
The study focused on 14 elementary schools in central and northern Minnesota that are part of the Active Schools Minnesota initiative. The initiative assists students in reaching the national physical activity guideline of at least 60 minutes of movement every day. (Read a copy of the study here).
“There is a lot of energy and positive feedback from schools using the Active Schools Minnesota approach,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “We know how important physical activity is to the overall health of our youth, and this study not only reinforced that point but also brought to the surface how important movement is to the academic success of our students.”
Between 2014 and 2016, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) – through its Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) – worked with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) on implementing and evaluating the initiative. Each school in the pilot study committed to implementing at least two strategies that increased students’ time in physical activity during and outside the school day, such as quality physical education and active recess.
“It’s clear from this report that active kids are active learners,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “Providing a well-rounded education that includes movement and physical education is essential to a child’s success in the classroom.”
Previous studies showed that physically active students tend to have better grades, school attendance and classroom behaviors. According to results of this study, students who met recommendations for aerobic fitness were 250 percent more likely to have a healthy weight. These students were also 27 percent more likely to be proficient in math and 24 percent more likely to be proficient in reading, based on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores. In addition, they were 6 percent more likely to attend school consistently, according to school records.
The impact is also felt beyond the numbers, with teachers reporting that students enjoyed being active and that they observed positive behavioral changes in the classroom.
Schools participating in the study were supported by SHIP, with MDH and local SHIP grantees providing technical assistance and coordination.
Minnesota schools will soon incorporate grade-level standards and benchmarks for physical education as required by a state law passed in 2016. The goal of these standards is to create equity in the quality of physical education instruction provided by all schools in Minnesota.
MDE and MDH will support schools to implement the new standards by developing guidance materials and working directly with schools through SHIP. Implementing this new state policy will help schools meet national recommendations for physical education and enhance the Active Schools Minnesota approach.