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Putting Physical Activity Where It Fits in the School Day

Thanks to Dr. Ernie Medina (MedPlay) we learned about a great study by David L. Katz, MD, MPH; Daniel Cushman; Jesse Reynolds, MS; Valentine Njike, MD, MPH; Judith A. Treu, MS, RD; Jennifer Walker, MEd; Erica Smith; Catherine Katz, PhD.

“Preliminary Results of the ABC (Activity Bursts in the Classroom) for Fitness Program”

(Full article can be found at Preventing Chronic Disease e-Journal)

In Summary: Through the ExerLearning program, we have done field studies over seven years.  While we observed many of the outcomes found in this study, the quantitative research is solid evidence valuable to educators and District leaders. Three schools in the Independence School District in Independence, Missouri, were assigned to receive the ABC (Activity Bursts in the Classroom) for Fitness program, and 2 comparable schools served as controls. The program, led by classroom teachers, provides multiple, brief, structured physical activity breaks throughout the day.
Students in the intervention group showed significantly reduced use of asthma medication compared with students in the control group (P = .03). Students in the intervention group also showed reduced use of ADHD medication compared with students in the control group (P = .07).
Academic performance measured by MAP achievement level scores showed no significant differences between the intervention and control groups in reading (P = .35) and mathematics (P = .15). However, as measured by ISD progress reports, significant differences in academic performance were observed. In mathematics, the control group had a greater proportion of students whose academic performance improved compared to that of the intervention group (28.6% vs 20.8%, P <.001). The proportion of students in the control group whose reading level improved was also greater than that of the intervention group (21.1% vs 16.1%, P = .01).
This initial controlled study of ABC for Fitness suggests that the program can improve fitness, reduce medication use, and preserve teaching time and academic performance. The program can be used in elementary school classrooms with minimal interruptions in daily classroom management related to academics and classroom behavior.
This study successfully influenced some of the “upstream” factors that over time can influence measures of weight and overall health.
Several studies have shown how classroom-based physical activity programs can effectively improve behavior and increase in-school physical activity and overall physical activity (20,21). Our study also demonstrates the efficacy of classroom-based physical activity without any change in basic curriculum. This distinction is meaningful because no extra time needs to be devoted to the program as a result of increased classroom time efficiency. Focus groups showed acceptance by students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Even the best programs will not work if they are not accepted and implemented enthusiastically. The compatibility of the ABC for Fitness program with the prevailing needs and priorities of schools is suggested by the widespread dissemination of the program by word-of-mouth alone; to our knowledge, hundreds and perhaps thousands of US schools are using the program (13).
Previous programs have attempted to add a new section into the curriculum, which forces the reduction or elimination of other educational time. The ABC for Fitness program can reduce downtime and increase teaching time. As several schools decrease the amount of time and money spent on physical education (22), this program is an alternative; training time is minimal, and no specialists or extra equipment is required.

These last finding are in direct alignment with the intention of the ExerLearning programs that harness the “plug and play” physical activity and balance training afforded by select exergaming resources.  We welcome your inquiries and comments.

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