MONDAY, Jan. 9, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Children with serious behavioral disorders might fare better at school if they get some exercise during the day, a new study suggests.
They looked at whether structured exercise during the school day — in the form of stationary “cybercycles” — could help ease students’ behavioral issues in the classroom.
Over a period of seven weeks, the study found it did.
Kids were about one-third to 50 percent less likely to act out in class, compared to a seven-week period when they took standard gym classes.
Those effects are meaningful, according to lead researcher April Bowling, who was a doctoral student at Harvard University at the time of the study.
“On days that the students biked, they were less likely to be taken out of the classroom for unacceptable behavior,” said Bowling, who is now an assistant professor of health sciences at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.
“That’s important for their learning, and for their relationships with their teachers and other kids in class,” she said.
The exercise in this case was carefully chosen for students with behavioral problems. These children often get less physical activity than their peers, Bowling said.
They can have difficulty following the rules of organized sports, or with the physicality of some traditional gym activities, she explained.
For the study, Bowling and her colleagues gave the kids stationary bikes equipped with virtual reality “exergaming.” The exercise was simple and contained, and the video games offered a way to keep kids engaged and focused, Bowling explained.
The study was done at a school that enrolls kids with behavioral health disorders, many of whom also have learning disabilities. Their usual gym classes focused mainly on skill-building, with only short bursts of aerobic activity at most, according to the researchers.
For seven weeks, 103 students used the stationary bikes during their usual gym class — twice a week, for 30 to 40 minutes. Their classroom behavior was tracked and compared with a seven-week period without the bikes, when they had gym class as usual.