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Marijke Mullender - Wijnsma: why should children move more during class?

Why should children move more during class?

In primary school, children spend 4 to 6 hours a day in a classroom, often sitting on their chairs. They exercise during the break or during gym class. In recent years, however, more and more people have been advising that more exercise is needed at school. Exercise is first and foremost important for staying healthy. More and more studies also show that movement and cognition are interlinked. This means that children who exercise usually also perform better at school.

Marijke Mullender - Wijnsma

For extra exercise at school, a gym or sports field is not always necessary; exercise can also be integrated into the classroom lessons. To this end, the Fit & Vaardig (Fit and Skilled; F&V) at School teaching programme was developed, a programme consisting of physically active arithmetic and language lessons.

In twelve primary schools we investigated whether the lessons were feasible, and we studied the effect of the lessons on the task orientation and school performance of children. Children from groups 4 and 5 took part in F&V lessons three times a week. We incorporated moderate to intensive exercises during the 30-minute arithmetic and language lessons, while repeating educational material at the same time. For example, children answered the sum ‘2x5’ by jumping into place 10 times. Our research showed that the F&V lessons could be carried out well in the classroom and that the lessons improved the task orientation of children. In addition, children who took part in F&V lessons for two years improved in counting and spelling compared to children who did not take part in the lessons. More than six months after the intervention, the effects on arithmetic were still present.

How? First of all, physical activity stimulates the increase in concentrations of neurotransmitters. This allows the children to concentrate more on their tasks. In the long term, physical activity can lead to better blood circulation in the brain, the production of new nerve cells and the creation of more connections between nerve cells, which contributes to an improvement in cognitive performance. Finally, the motor information gained by the children during the physically active lessons can be an additional source of information that stimulates learning. This happens, for example, when students give the answer to a sum by making the correct number of movements.

These results are promising and show that physical activity in class has added value for primary education. Schools, teachers and children should therefore be encouraged to move more during class. For this reason, the F&V lessons have been further developed and an online app has now been developed for these lessons. This app helps teachers to integrate movement into learning. The app makes the lessons accessible and easy to use for all primary schools.

We are proud to have won the NRO Verbindingsprijs (Connection Award) in 2017. This award is intended for scientific research that has been translated into daily educational practice.

Last modified:03 September 2019 10.53 a.m.
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