PEI

Getting students moving provides big benefits, international study finds

Students, especially elementary school students, need to get up from their desks and move around more often, according to an international study published Tuesday morning in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

‘It can be as simple as giving students the permission to move’

Physical activity can happen as a group, or individually. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Students, especially elementary school students, need to get up from their desks and move around more often, according to an international study published Tuesday morning in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The study recommends elementary school students should be moving at least once every 30 minutes, and intermediate and high school students once an hour.

"[They] tend to do better in school, they tend to have better physical health and they tend to have better mental health than students who get more sedentary behaviour," said lead author Travis Saunders, a kinesiology professor at the University of Prince Edward Island.

"That's especially true when we're talking about screen-based sedentary behaviours."

There are lots of different ways to get children moving, says Travis Saunders. (courtesy Travis Saunders)

The report was based on a review of hundreds of studies involving millions of children from dozens of different countries. It included a review of draft recommendations by an international panel of stakeholders.

How teachers can incorporate more movement into the school day is not a focus of the report, but Saunders said it does not necessarily need to be regimented.

"It doesn't mean that the whole class has to necessarily stop and do a bunch of jumping jacks together," said Saunders.

"It can be something like that, but it can be as simple as giving students the permission to move when they feel the need to move."

Sit-stand desks can also be an option, he said. People naturally move more when they are standing than when they are sitting.

The report also addressed homework, which is often a sedentary activity. Teachers should consider assigning physical activity as homework, said Saunders.

The study found that while homework is beneficial, there is a point where it can become counterproductive.

"If you spend too much time doing homework every night then you don't have time to be physically active, you don't have time to spend with your friends and do other things that are also good for you," said Saunders.

Teachers should not assign more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level, the report recommends.

With files from Island Morning

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