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ENC Regional News
Sat March 31, 2007
ECU study indicates exercise and study can go together
By George Olsen
New Bern, NC – INTRO - A study conducted by ECU indicates a two-fold benefit to exercise periods for students. George Olsen has more.
The number of overweight children is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says between 1980 and 2004 the percentage of overweight six-to-eleven year olds rose from 6-point-5 percent to 18-point-8 percent, increasing their risk for cardiovascular diseases as well as type-2-diabetes. That's raised a call for more active youngsters but that butts up against a trend in schools for more classroom instruction and less physical education. A study led by Matt Mahar, the director of the activity promotion lab at East Carolina University, however, indicates the two desires aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
20:52 The increase in on-task behavior for all of the students before the energizers to after the energizers was about 8 percent, but when we looked at the students who were least on-task to begin with, those who were on-task less than 50% of the time, their on-task behavior increased by 20% after performing this one ten-minutes physical activity.
The energizers Mahar speaks of are brief 10-minute activities performed inside the classroom. Observers with his study watched classrooms of fourth-graders at Grifton Elementary School, some which did the energizers, some which did not, and those that did the energizers were more on-task than those that did not Mahar's description of on-task being students paying attention, following class rules and doing their assigned work. It's not as quantitative a measure as a test score, but one less influenced by other factors.
17:31 I think that both, looking at on-task behavior which would be a direct result of the energizers, and academic performance, test scores, which are influenced by a lot more, what kids do at home and throughout the school day
The energizers, in most cases, are also designed to complement classroom assignments.
08:07 In the fourth grade for example they study the state of North Carolina, and its called travel the Tar Heel state, but the teacher would stand in front of the class and read the directions and say we're going to take a virtual tour of N-C and the students will move according to the directions here, such as hike the Appalachian Trail and they would be hiking up a trail while they're standing next to their desk, do a touchdown dance like the Carolina Panthers or climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
For grades 3-thru-5 about 25 different energizer activities exist. Most of the activities are done with the students next to their desks. But despite the fact the students don't roam very far, the simulated events, measured by pedometers, actually produce real activity.
18:39 The increase in physical activity for the group that did the energizers was statistically significant and substantial. They took on average about 782 more steps per day than the control students. That may not sound like much but that's just in one 10-minute-a-day physical activity, and if you do the math over a 180-day school year for one 10-minute physical activity, making the assumption of about 2-feet per step, which is a good assumption for kids, that the kids who did the energizer activities would travel about 70 miles more in a school year than the kids who didn't do the activity.
The energizers will also help meet a requirement listed as the healthy active children policy listed in the state Board of Education's policy manual that elementary schools move toward 150 minutes a week of physical activity for elementary school children. Mahar says his energizers aren't meant to replace physical education or recess they should be treated as an adjunct. Still, given the increasing number of overweight children, the energizers can be an important part of getting children moving again.
14:40 I think, although I'd like to have quality daily physical education, usually only two days are available for elementary students in most districts of N-C, so to meet that 30 minutes a day of physical activity, recess is going to be important, energizers are going to be important until we can have quality daily physical education.
Matt Mahar is the director of the activity promotion lab at East Carolina University. The findings from the study were recently published by the American College of Sports Medicine. I'm George Olsen.