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Before School Exercise

Posted March. 03, 2010 09:17,   


Korean children have become bigger but their physical strength is declining. According to the results of student physical tests conducted between 2000 and 2008 and submitted to the National Assembly by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, their physical strength has dropped for nine consecutive years. When all students are split into five levels, the top levels of one and two dropped from 41 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2008, while the worst levels of four and five rose from 31 percent to 42 percent. Many students are bigger but physically weak because students do not exercise in their lives as well as in school.

The notion that those who are good at sports are not academically strong is a myth. Rather, many studies on the brain have found that exercise raises intelligence. Exercise creates nets connecting neurons in the brain and supplies blood and nutrition to brain cells. In particular, the brain-derived neurotrophic factor created in the brain during exercise enhances intelligence.

Since 2005, Naperville High School in Chicago has required students to exercise before the first class begins. The result? Their physical strength has grown and the students have shown more focus and displayed academic improvement. The school toped in science and ranked fifth in math in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. This is one example proving the saying, “A sound mind in a sound body.” Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, a leading private school in Korea, has introduced exercise before the first class.

Students at Seongbuk Elementary School in Seoul must run at least three times a week before class begins, a move that has brought good results. Children who could barely cover a lap on the track in April last year can now run three or four laps. When their physical strength was measured in December last year, their body fat dropped while their spontaneity and muscular endurance improved. The real benefit came from somewhere else. Teachers say that after morning running, children are more concentrated and more involved in class. This is something that parents and students must pay attention to. Children need moderate exercise to perform better in school, and the incorrect notion that exercise interrupts studying is turning them into weaklings.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)