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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

West Virginia: When Physical Activity Extends Beyond PE Class

Kids are supposed to get an hour of physical activity a day, but fewer than a quarter of them do. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, classroom-based physical activity can boost their activity levels and is associated with longer attention spans, increased focus and memory and higher academic achievement.

But practically speaking, how can teachers add physical activity to their already overstuffed agendas? And if they manage to do it, will it actually help their students? West Virginia University researchers Dr. Nancy O’Hara Tompkins and Dr. Lesley Cottrell launched a project to help answer these questions. Their goal: to increase physical activity in West Virginia classrooms.

“Everyone agrees that preventive medicine has value, but it’s a longer investment, and we know behavior change can be difficult,” said Dr. Cottrell, an investigator with the West Virginia Prevention Research Center and a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health and School of Medicine. “Focusing on kids makes complete sense.”

The project — called Activate! — was part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion (CDC) award to the West Virginia Prevention Research Center (PRC), one of the 25 PRCs around the nation that the CDC funds.

As part of Activate!, teachers from 22 fifth-grade classrooms — in 11 West Virginia public schools — received step-by-step instructions for classroom activities designed to encourage movement in their students.

After meeting with the researchers to learn more about the activities’ purpose and how to carry them out, the teachers wove them into the fabric of their instructional time.

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