Several schools across the country have adopted early morning physical education classes in order to assist students with learning. In Naperville, Illinois, District 203 has been conducting a Learning Readiness Physical Education program for years. Their approach has received national attention because of the positive impact it has had on literacy scores. More and more evidence points to the reasons why this intervention is so successful. Primarily, when students are introduced to an early regiment of exercise, they become more focused and ready to learn due, in part, to an increased oxygen flow to the brain combined with an increase in neurotransmitters.
The other side benefit of exercising in the morning is that it improves mood, lowers aggression, and increases attention. What is beneficial in introducing exercise as a part of a student’s preparation for learning is making sure that what the students engage in triggers their attention system. ExerGaming is an excellent tool because it provides immediate feedback, is a challenge leveled to the individual’s skill set, is pleasurable to the brain, and is motivational so kids stay with the routine more easily.
In a recent case study that I conducted at my school, we found duel benefits to utilizing ExerGaming as the medium for exercise. We chose one of our most unfocused and often disruptive students and introduced him to a new ExerGaming lab we had implemented in our school. What resulted was an increase in motivation by simply working to receive ExerGaming lab time. The teacher set expectations for the morning. When the student achieved those goals, he received, as a reward, extra time in the lab. The teacher commented that it was the most leverage she ever had on motivating this student’s behavior. He enjoyed the lab so much that he worked harder than he ever had about following directions and completing assignments.
The other benefit was derived from the physiological effects of the exercise. The teacher said that, when he returned from his workout, he was more calm and successful in the class. He now was benefiting from increased dopamine and serotonin to the brain which helped regulate his mood and aggression as well as activating his attention system. ExerGaming provided a huge motivational tool and also created a more focused student. The teacher was so pleased with the results that she has become a strong advocate for using the ExerGaming lab as an intervention for kids.
Next year our elementary school will start a morning physical activity class for all kids who struggle with behavior and attention. What was clear this year was that when we improved the behavior and learning for a struggling student, we improved the learning for everyone.
Recently, there is evidence that states are noticing the link between exercise and learning. As the research becomes more widely known, Utah legislators are beginning to pay attention. For example, Rep. Paul Ray and Rep. Eric Hutchings, are considering several approaches to improving the fitness levels of kids and improving school test scores. They have introduced a program that promotes high heart-rate physical education classes before the school day begins. The novelty of ExerGaming is a key strategy in this pursuit. Today’s students enjoy and are motivated by video games. ExerGaming blends their interest in this medium and, at the same time, engages students with unique and exciting workouts. As more is known, we expect schools to embrace the concept of exercising before instruction.