Originally published July 13, 2019 in the Idaho State Journal.

By Warren Willey

Physical education in schools has been systematically replaced by academic endeavors for several years now.

The drive in American schools to keep up with the science and math world, and the cost of doing so, has been at the expense of PE class.

This is unfortunate and not always for the obvious reasons — those obvious reasons being the rise of obesity and health issues in children.

What is not obvious is that the lack of movement is actually detrimental to brain development, the ability to store and recall information, and overall intelligence as rated by standardized testing.

In other words, kids who still get gym class do better academically. This has been shown in numerous studies.

Increasing time spent in the math and sciences, once again — at the expense of physical education — has had no effect on those same test scores, or when we compare our kids here in America to those around the world (highest scores in math and sciences coming from Singapore, China, and Korea).

Exercise, especially vigorous exercise, increases brain power. Brains literally grow due to specific chemicals released from the muscles that trigger growth factors in the brain.

The more you exercise, the smarter you can become. This really holds true as an immediate effect. Early gym class before a test, for example, will improve test scores.

The effects of vigorous exercise are immediate and long-lasting. I would encourage everyone reading this to push your kids into aggressive physical activity this summer, as it is one of the best ways to prepare them for this coming school year.

Help your kids’ brain grow by encouraging strenuous activity with our nice weather right now, so our wonderful teachers can fill those bigger brains up this coming school year!

Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician.

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    "The more you exercise, the smarter you can become."
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