Physical activity; children; schools; cognition
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National physical activity guidelines call for children and adolescents to participate in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, including aerobic, resistance and bone strengthening exercise. Although children and adolescents are more physically active than most adults, only the youngest age group (6-7 year olds) consistently meets the national physical activity recommendations. In the United States, 42% of 6-11 year olds and 8% of 12-19 year olds meet the recommended guidelines. The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report concluded that there is strong evidence that higher amounts of physical activity are associated with more favorable status for multiple health indicators including cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, weight status and adiposity and moderate evidence that physical activity is associated with cardiometabolic health. It has been demonstrated that high amounts of physical activity lead to more than just improved health. Physical activity improves academic performance, behavior, attendance, and attention. Further, children are happier and have a higher self-esteem and sense of belonging. Unfortunately, many schools are decreasing or eliminating physical education and recess, limiting opportunities for children to participate in physical activity and increasing the time spent sitting in the classroom.
In this project, I researched the benefits that physical activity has on cognition in school-aged children and surveyed a sample of elementary and secondary schools in Rhode Island to gather information on the amount of time that students spent per week being physically active in physical education classes and in recess. Because the majority of children are not meeting recommended guidelines, physical education classes and recess are great tools to get students moving. Schools are a safe and convenient place to change physical activity patterns.