Healthy People 2020 was designed to set guidelines for people on how to live a healthier lifestyle. In addition, it was designed as a way to help combat obesity and other health related concerns. People of all ages should refer to the guidelines as a way to help them incorporate physical activity into their own lives in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain physically active. It is recommended that adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. The 60 minutes of activity does not have to be completed all at once. It can occur during physical education classes, after school during sports clubs, and it can occur during short bouts of time such as during recess or participating in physical activity breaks (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Since youth in our culture are becoming increasingly sedentary, it is important for schools and communities to continue to offer programs that help get youth active.
The great thing about the physical activity guidelines is that the 60 minutes of activity can occur in as little as 10-minute segments throughout the school day. If teachers incorporated 10-minute physical activity breaks throughout the school day, these segments, in addition to the time students spent in physical education classes, would help students achieve the minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity needed to achieve the health benefits of both the mind and body that exercise provides. In its review of studies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the use of physical activity in the classroom increased academic achievement, improved student concentration, and improved student attitude. Moreover, research has also linked the participation in physical activity to decreased levels of depression and anxiety, increased levels of self-esteem, and successful management of ADHD symptoms (Greenleaf, Petrie, & Martin, 2010; Parfitt, Pavey, & Rowlands, 2009; Prasad, St.-Hilaire, Peterson, & Loftin, 2009). Adolescence is a challenging time for most people. During adolescence, students are experiencing changes emotionally, physically, socially, and mentally, leaving a classroom full of a compilation of emotions, abilities, learning styles, and motivation levels (Wiles & Bondi, 2007). If utilizing physical activity breaks in the classroom can create some type of balance, then why wouldn’t teachers want to use them in the classroom? Ten minutes of activity may seem like a significant chunk of a class period; however, if students are relatively focused for the remaining 40 minutes of class, isn’t that better than a class lacking focus for an entire class period? Also, if ten minutes can help students who are restless (such as many adolescent boys) and those that have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD concentrate better wouldn’t classroom management be easier due to fewer classroom disruptions? Yes, I am an advocate for using physical activity in the classroom. I DO feel the pressures of time, but I combat the time barrier by adding curriculum content during the physical activity. Much of the content utilizes review strategies, which I would do any way if I kept my kids seated and was too uncomfortable with using physical activity in the classroom. I originally started using physical movement activities as a way to help me manage my classroom, but the benefits for students is even more powerful than I thought and why wouldn’t I want to help them be the best that they can be? I’m willing to put on the physical activity boxing gloves and knock down some classroom barriers to help students learn in a safe and positive environment. After all, I know that I will win (most of the time)…..