Lewis Bowling: PE a benefit for students

May. 29, 2013 @ 03:51 PM

Being active improves academic performance. That statement, it would seem to most of us, should be as plain as the nose on your face. But as schools across the country seek to improve the academic performance of students, many have cut physical education and recess periods so more time is saved for classroom instruction.
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that “a growing body of evidence suggests students of all ages who are more active are better able to focus their attention, are quicker to perform simple tasks, and have better working memories and problem solving skills than less active students. Active students also perform better on standardized academic tests.” The report also recommends ways to increase activity, such as offering more physical education classes and classroom breaks, offering more after-school sports and recreation opportunities, and promoting walking or biking to school when feasible.
Of course, just from reading my information at the end of my column, you can assume that I wholeheartedly endorse the findings of this study, and I have been touting the academic benefits of being active for years.
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I’m all for swimming as a good and enjoyable way to exercise. Now that June is almost here, hot days are coming for us. If you have lived in North Carolina all your life, like I have, you know hot, steamy days are just part of our great state. My wife tells me I’m a little weird in this respect: I actually like it hot. I’m lucky in that I’m able to, and it doesn’t seem to bother me to work or exercise whether it is 70 degrees or 95 degrees. I have always thought I’m like that because I grew up as a country boy on a farm, and my daddy wanted his tobacco harvested and the pigs fed, and those various jobs were to be done come rain or shine or hot, if you know what I mean. I had a great father, but I never made the mistake of telling him it was too hot to work that day.
But let’s get back to swimming. The Centers for Disease Control recently released a study showing that “fecal matter” was found in more than half the pools sampled in Atlanta. That’s right; most of the time when people go swimming in pools in Atlanta they swim in water contaminated with poop. The study found that people are not taking showers before swimming, and fecal matter rinses off of bottoms into the water, or they are having “accidents” in the water.
To be sure, you can expect that our local pools would be the same as Atlanta pools. I certainly am not advocating not swimming in pools, but it would be wise of us to follow some guidelines from the CDC: Don’t swim if you have diarrhea, shower before swimming and get children to take frequent bathroom breaks. Now, here is a good one also: Don’t swallow the water!
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Lots of times we hear about professional athletes being arrested for bad deeds, but most of them set good examples. We hear more about athletes because they are so well known. If I got caught driving drunk tomorrow (which isn’t going to happen, because I don’t drink) nobody much would care. But if a famous NBA player did the same, it would be national news.
Carlos Beltran is a great baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals, and he is one of those athletes who, we really can admire. On a recent day when he had a game to play that night, he spent two hours with young cancer patients. On a recent day off when he didn’t have a game, he spoke to students at a St. Louis school. A couple of weeks ago he paid for 36 tickets to a Cardinals game for underprivileged kids. He founded a baseball academy where kids can go and learn how to play the game. He has sponsored eight college scholarships for students in St. Louis. Beltran says, “There should never be a time when you should stop helping people, and I never will. I had help to get to where I am.”
Lewis Bowling teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is www.lewisbowling.com. He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at Lewis_Bowling@yahoo.com.