As our high school student athletes hit the fields, courts, and trails for the fall season, it may seem an odd time to talk about the need to exercise. However, on the eve a new school year a newly published report strongly reinforced the connection between exercise and academic performance.

As reported in last week’s Well blog at the New York Times (picture left), the Italian study’s researchers concluded that children “who undergo prolonged periods of academic instruction often reduce their attention and concentration.” Not surprisingly, the study shows that the ability to concentrate in the classroom is replenished after gym class.

Interestingly, exercise and performance was a big topic at the recently completed Marshall Admin Team Retreat. The summer reading for our leadership team was a wonderful book by John Medina called Brain Rules.

The new study and the research highlighted in Brain Rules only reinforced our current understanding of the importance of exercise. Marshall’s schedule deliberately puts daily PE in the schedules of our younger students for this very reason — bucking the trend of some other schools to reduced PE time and focus more time on standardized test-taking preparation. It turns out that increased time for “drill-and-kill” exercises may in fact be counter-productive.

The first chapter of Medina’s book highlights the importance of exercise to boost brain power. He is critical of the direction taken by many schools. He goes so far as to suggest that kids should have not one but two recess periods, writing: “Cutting off physical exercise — the very activity most likely to promote cognitive performance — to do better on a test score is like trying to gain wait by starving yourself.”

Time to head out for a jog …