60 Minutes of What?

Myer, Gregory D.; Faigenbaum, Avery D.; Edwards, Nicholas M.; Clark, Joseph F.; Best, Thomas M.; Sallis, Robert E. (2015). Sixty minutes of what? A developing brain perspective for activating children with an integrative exercise approach. British Journal of Sports Medicine; Dec2015,  Vol. 49 Issue 23, p1

Lower Elementary Physical Education

Authors engage in an analysis of current research to make the argument that current efforts and recommendations for physical activity in children are misguided in that they overlook the importance of motor skill acquisition.  Current recommendations by national organizations promote the accumulation of moderate to vigorous activity each week for the sake of health and fitness.  The authors' argument is that these recommendations result in initiatives that focus on being physically active for the sake of activity.  The authors argue that this perspective contributes to the neglect by providers, especially programs of physical education, in focusing on and impacting the qualitative aspects of challenging movements that should be of primary concern of physical education programs.

Authors, in this synthesis of the literature, have two basic points of focus.  First, they challenge the current convention on physical activity standards for children.  Second, they present the latest evidence regarding brain development and motor control as they make a case for what they define as an "integrative exercise" program.

People BowlingThe authors point out that the timing of brain development provides children of various ages ideal windows of opportunity to learn skills.  To complement that, learning to execute various challenging activities also contributes to brain development.  They argue that children who fail to engage in regularly structured motor skill enriched activities during physical education classes or diverse youth sport programs may never reach their genetic potential for motor skill control.  This they argue undermines the individual's ability to sustain healthy levels of physical fitness in life.  This view is supported by data on 6-year-old children with low and average levels of motor coordination who demonstrated lower levels of physical activity 5 years later when compared with children with high motor coordination.  They also argue that the current emphasis on being active in physical education undermines the focus on developing socialization skills and enjoyment of exercise.Kids doing jumping jacks

So the authors' message is a powerful one.  There is a need for trained physical educators, and those trained individuals need to do more that engage students of all ages in physical activity.  The activities chosen by practitioners need to be the right activities to contribute to the unique and specific needs of students at those specific stages of development.  The learning experiences need to result in students focusing on intentional learnings that contribute to their physical development, their mental development, their social development and/or their ability and willingness to engage in activities in the future.  Finally, this integrative approach (integrating physical activity with intentional challenging learning) needs to equip learners with the competencies – both intellectual, effectual, and physical – to engage in activities they need to maximize their health and well-being at different times in their lives.

The message presents a daunting task for physical educators.  But it also presents a task that only trained physical educators are equipped to complete!