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Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds


What makes a good student? What enables children to perform well in school? What factors optimize learning? Good questions all, for those with an interest in the education of youth. There is, of course, no one answer – no magic bullet. Answers can and will vary depending on the student for which the question is asked. And the factors which are broadly beneficial are numerous and interconnected. But one such factor, oft overlooked, now seems to be coming off of the ropes swinging.

The terms currently in use in Ontario are: daily physical activity (for elementary schools) and healthy active living education (for secondary schools). There have been many studies which only verify what has been long known. Healthy, active living is good not only for the body, but also for the mind.

But according to recent data, including those from the 2009 “Active Healthy Kids Report Card” issued by the Children’s Hospital of Easter Ontario Research Institute and ParticpACTION Canada, 87% of children are not getting enough daily activity and 90% of children spend “too much time in front of television, computer and video screens,” far exceeding the recommended two-hour daily limit. And only a few years ago, our friends in the United States, in their “No Child Left Behind” program encouraged schools to focus more time on academic subjects, cutting time to “peripheral subjects” such as art, music and health & physical education.

A healthy level of activity will not make us more intelligent, but it will put the body and the brain in a more optimal state for learning. That same 2009 Active Healthy Kids Report Card “reveals that children who are more physically active are also more academically fit, resulting in better scores in math and reading, higher grades, greater perceptual skill and overall academic readiness.” “Being active feeds the brain,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, “giving active kids an advantage over their peers who are more sedentary.”

Remembering that human beings are whole entities and not isolated parts would serve us well, not only in education, but in all aspects of life. As the great classical philosopher Plato taught us, an education forming simultaneously a disciplined body, a balanced soul, and a controlled mind will achieve its true mission: awakening the intrinsic human potential and identity.



March 02, 2010

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