Don’t side­line sport if you want your child to suc­ceed - ex­er­cise can help im­prove aca­demic re­sults

7 Days in Dubai - - BUSINESS -

In As­so­ci­a­tion With

hen we con­sider the ben­e­fits of be­ing ac­tive, we usu­ally think in terms of phys­i­cal well­be­ing - car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness, avoid­ing obe­sity, im­prov­ing our flex­i­bil­ity, and so on.

But nu­mer­ous stud­ies show that the ben­e­fits of be­ing ac­tive go way be­yond just the phys­i­cal; there are ex­ten­sive psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tages too.

This is es­pe­cially true for our chil­dren, with a range of re­search show­ing clearly how ex­er­cise can pos­i­tively af­fect a child’s men­tal well­be­ing, even help­ing them to achieve more at school.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion ad­vises that ex­er­cise helps young peo­ple deal with anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, helps their so­cial devel­op­ment and builds self-con­fi­dence. But de­spite the re­search, many par­ents do not pri­ori­tise phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, in­stead fo­cus­ing as­pi­ra­tions solely on aca­demic achieve­ment. Iron­i­cally, this could ac­tu­ally be hold­ing back a child’s learn­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the US Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion (CDC): “Par­tic­i­pat­ing in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is pos­i­tively re­lated to aca­demic achieve­ment… con­cen­tra­tion, mem­ory, self­es­teem, and ver­bal skills.

It con­tin­ues: “Schools should in­crease op­por­tu­nity for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. There is ev­i­dence that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity may help im­prove aca­demic per­for­mance, in­clud­ing grades and test scores.”

Kings’ School Al Bar­sha in Dubai is one school that is em­brac­ing this ethos and aim­ing to prove the worth of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion for all chil­dren.

The school is ex­per­i­ment­ing with the Spark Pro­ject, an ed­u­ca­tional pro­gramme born in the United States that seeks to pro­mote the wide-reach­ing ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity for stu­dents.

“The Spark pro­ject that we have run­ning here is us­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to en­gage the brain,” ex­plains Colin Mor­ris, Di­rec­tor of Sport at Kings’ School Al Bar­sha.

“The idea of Spark is that a stu­dent raises their heart rate to about 70 per cent of their max­i­mum and holds it there for 15 min­utes. The re­search says that their brains will be more ac­tive for 90 min­utes af­ter that ex­er­cise.

“We have a group of chil­dren in year 5. Three times a week they will be run­ning be­fore school and then we will be track­ing how well they do in English and Maths to prove how this ac­tiv­ity in­creases their brain func­tion.

“If the re­sults are pos­i­tive, which we hope they are, we will be rolling that out across the school and we hope to see it im­pact pos­i­tively on exam re­sults.”

“The Spark pro­gramme is re­ally ex­cit­ing,” agrees Alan Wil­liamson, Prin­ci­pal at the school. “Stu­dents are com­ing in early and do­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and it’s non-com­pet­i­tive. They com­pete only against them­selves, rais­ing their own fit­ness lev­els and we are find­ing that this has real ben­e­fits for their aca­demic achieve­ment.”

So health­ier, hap­pier and more suc­cess­ful stu­dents - all from an early-morn­ing run? It re­ally does seem like an ed­u­ca­tional ‘no-brainer’.

It is, says Adam Grif­fin, Se­nior Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist at Ca­mali Clinic in Dubai.

“In ad­di­tion to the clear phys­i­cal ben­e­fits, chil­dren who get the chance to run, jump, spin, tum­ble, splash and dance ex­pe­ri­ence ma­jor im­prove­ments across mul­ti­ple ar­eas in­clud­ing at­ten­tion, learn­ing and over­all be­hav­iour.

“In ad­di­tion, chil­dren and teens who are more phys­i­cally ac­tive are more aca­dem­i­cally mo­ti­vated, have stronger so­cial sup­ports and bet­ter self-es­teem than less ac­tive peers.”

“The Spark ini­tia­tive is our chance to re­ally push the bound­aries,” Colin from Kings’ ex­plains. “It’s an in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity to show the power of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and how it can pro­vide sup­port in all ar­eas of school life. “It’s a re­ally sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ment for how we ap­proach the over­all well­be­ing of all chil­dren.”

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