Recess and gym classes aren’t just for playtime anymore. That’s because an increasing number of teachers are mixing physical activity with lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic. 

Like one third-grade class we read about, where students do sprints while counting by fours, or in a foreign language. Do one-armed pushups, while the teacher shouts vocabulary words, like “alternate!” and “descending!” And the kids learn to use pedometers, and calculate optimum heart rates to work on math skills. 

What’s going on here? For one thing, schools are increasingly focusing on student test scores and administrators don’t want to waste a minute of the school day. That’s one reason P.E. classes have been phased out in some schools. So, to keep the classes from being cut in other schools, they’re making sure P.E. classes are about more than P.E.. Because if they can prove gym class is an overall asset, it won’t be eliminated. 

But some parents and educators say that kids are already under too much pressure to learn. They believe that P.E. should be for exercise, and blowing off stress. And pressuring them to learn at the same time defeats the purpose. 

But a growing body of research shows that physical activity can help improve cognitive function.

And that some kids learn better when they’re moving instead of sitting at a desk. 

Like one lesson we read about - students were taught to hit a chip shot with a golf club. Then, the teacher flipped the club over, and taught them about angles. It was a real-life geometry lesson that caught their attention, and helped kids improve their golf game.