Get Up and Learn! Physical Activity Helps Kids Master Math and Spelling

A new study finds incorporating physical activity into learning boosts test scores in certain subject areas.
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Like many kids, my second-grader gets bored doing her math and spelling homework. Sometimes we will stop and get our sillies out by running around the kitchen island, doing jumping jacks, or dancing. Then I ask her to refocus on the equations. Turns out, we might be on to something!

A new study called "Physically Active Math and Language Lessons Improve Academic Achievement: A Cluster RCT," which was published in the March 2016 issue of Pediatrics, looked at whether adding physical activity (i.e. like my family's kitchen Olympics) could help kids learn more effectively.

Researchers worked with 499 second- and third-graders in the Netherlands. The kids were divided into two groups: one that trudged through the current classroom lessons and one that participated in a "Fit & Vaardig" program of classroom lessons incorporating physical exercise.

Two years later, the kids in the "Fit & Vaardig" group demonstrated greater gains in math and spelling standardized test scores versus the kids in the "trudging" group. The improvement was so marked, it was as if the exercisers had received four more months of learning. Wow!

Interestingly, reading scores were unaffected.

The takeaway: If your kiddo is losing steam halfway through his homework, try incorporating some physical activity. For example, quiz her on the spelling words, but have her do a jumping jack as she recites each letter. Play math freeze dance, and every time you shut off the music, have your child stop and solve a problem. This approach will cut down on boredom, and may even help your child absorb the information better. Bonus: You are teaching your child the value of physical activity for both health and learning!

What's your take on this study?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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