Mind and Body: Lessons I learned from Physical Activity

Posted: February 1, 2017 12:00:00 AM CST

When I was 5 years old and people would ask me my favorite subject, I responded, “recess,” without hesitation. This answer was followed closely by reading and P.E class. My love of physical activity can be directly attributed to my P.E. teacher, Mr. MacGuire a phenomenal P.E. teacher. Even though he retired many years ago they still have MacGuire days at the elementary school where he taught.

UNK students in physical education classAll through elementary school we had physical education every day, he filled our time with games like Russian Spy, which involved teams trying to infiltrate the others’ domains and steal precious materials; snowball fights, in which he was an avid participant – he had a great arm, and introducing us to every other sport you can imagine.

He made us all feel like winners and he made school fun. Interestingly, there is research that points to P.E. teachers being particularly influential in students’ lives. If a physical education teachers tells a student they are good or weak at something physical, students take it to heart.

My own positive experience led me to do a bit of research to see the impact physical activity has on the mind, body, and spirit. Here’s what I found:

Emotional Spirit: Researchers say that within 5 minutes of exercise peoples’ moods improve. People that are physically active are less depressed than those who are sedentary. Regularly working out reduces anxiety and stress.

Body: There is a great deal of empirical evidence that shows that physical activity helps prevent heart disease and strokes, reduces high blood pressure, helps control weight and reduce obesity, and prevents back pain. The list of positives on the body go on and on.

Mind: Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume, an indicator of ability, in people who exercise versus people who don’t.

Since education is my field, I also wanted to look at the academic impact of physical activity. One particularly interesting and large study was conducted with Canadian middle schoolers. The students were divided into two groups. One group had P.E. every day for a year, and the other half had P. E. once a week; at the end of the year academic tests were given to both groups. Those that had P.E. every day did better academically – even though they were “losing” out on academic time. Something to think about in this age where recess time and P.E. classes are being reduced.

So get happy, exercise! Perhaps this will provide a bit of inspiration:


By: Sheryl Feinstein

Category: Education

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