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Can Exercise Improve Academics and Behavior?

September 3, 2009

Good Question, Right?

Brain Gains

You know that I’m always on the lookout for evidence-based behavior interventions. Well, I came across this video documentary that aired on the CBC National news program out of Canada on 9/1/09 and was a little skeptical of the whole concept that was being presented. Check it out for yourself at Brain Gains | Special Feature: Brain Gains | CBC News: The National.

Here is the gist of the program:

  • A teacher in Saskatchewan, Canada has a class of students with ADHD, OCD, and other severe behavior problems.
  • She reads a book called Spark by Dr. John Ratey that links exercise to improved performance in school.
  • So, the teacher makes her students exercise on tread mills in the classroom and reports that their reading and comprehension scores improve.

More Questions

Naturally, I’m not going to take this report at face value. But, as I sat through the long feature and learned more, I discovered that the teacher at the center of this practice had data to back up her statements. They looked at K-ABC reading scores of the students pre and post intervention. More importantly, they used data based decision making at multiple stages of implementing this exercise program in the classroom. Now I was impressed.

The Data

Even more impressive to me is the website where this video is featured. There are a number of links to research articles demonstrating the link between sustained exercise and improved academic performance and on-task behavior. The articles are from respected peer-reviewed research journals. The CBC website even has slides showing the academic improvement of students in the test group using standardized achievement tests.

Even though I started out as a skeptic, I’m now willing to read more about this intervention. It doesn’t solve all behavior problems, the teacher reports many incidents in student behavior after the documentary first aired. But, there is some empirical evidence to support the intervention.

Let me know what you think of the video or the resources presented on the CBC website.

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