Is early morning P.E. the answer to better student performance?

Published: Friday, May 18 2012 3:49 p.m. MDT

Fourth-grader Vitaliana Lagano throws a ball during team pinball in P.E. class at Midway Elementary School in Midway on Monday.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Some state representatives are trying to get schoolchildren more physically active as they move to improve health and school test scores.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, and Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, are considering several approaches, including a program that introduces high heart rate physical education classes before the school bell even rings in the morning.

Other states that have adopted the program called Zero Hour have already seen test scores rise. The idea is that when the heart rate goes up, the brain gets more oxygen.

“Physical activity not only helps with their physical health, but also helping them regulate their moods and their attention, as well as helping their brains get ready to take in new information,” said Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Another approach would be to strategically place physical education in other places during the school day. "We're looking at math and science scores," Ray said. "If you have a P.E. class in third period, then your fourth and fifth periods would be math and science, or even English. It depends what the students are struggling with."

Ray and Hutchings said strenuous activities in school will lead to better mental processing and a reduction in obesity and related ailments.

State health-care costs to treat obesity are projected to reach $2.1 billion a year by 2018, Ray said. Spending to restructure P.E. classes now could save Utah millions of dollars in the future, he said.

Northridge High School will start a pilot program this fall. Clearfield and Kearns high schools are also looking at participating.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: psamore@ksl.com

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