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PE class a smart move

BY BREANNA TUCKER SCHOOLS REPORTER
27 Sep, 2011 01:00 AM
Background: A Canberra professor has found ground-breaking evidence that physical education not only reduces the risk of childhood obesity but can improve academic performance.Adjunct professor Dick Telford, of the Australian National University medical school, has just published the results of a four-year study that compared children who participated in traditional daily sport activities with those who received specialist education in general fitness skills such as coordination, balance and strength.

The study found that pupils in the physical education classes lost an average of 0.25kg of body fat over two years (considered significant for 8- to 10-year-olds) but also improved their NAPLAN scores by 10 points more than those who participated in sports only.

Professor Telford said the academic results were a complete surprise to researchers, who had predicted only physical benefits for the program. ”When I got the results I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

”This study has essentially proven that not only does physical education not waste valuable teaching time but it also enhances children’s learning ability.”

The success of the Lifestyle of Our Kids (LOOK) study, published in the American Journal Public Health last Friday, was largely attributed to the Bluearth Foundation physical education program.

Developed 10 years ago, the program steers away from organised sports and instead introduces specialised staff into schools to teach general fitness such as coordination, agility, balance, core strength and yoga-like exercises. There is less focus on competitive activities with a winner and loser and emphasis on the development of individual skills and team games.

Physical Education Instruction – A Key Strength: But its key strength, Professor Telford said, was an analysis component where students discussed their strengths and weaknesses. ”For example, a student might be told to catch the ball with their wrong hand in a certain position, which makes them concentrate,” he said. ”Then the teacher will ask them what was difficult and how they could improve before asking them to do it again.”

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