Benefits of Fitness on Children
a result of increasing physical exertion on a regular basis, children
like adults, also reap the benefits of an increased level of wellness.
The research shows that they are simply not getting an adequate
amount of exercise. American children are generally in an activity
and fitness deficit. Gallahue (1982) and Seefeldt (1980) believe
that children in a full time daycare setting do not engage in adequate
physical activity on a daily basis. Gilliam (1981) reported that
although children were physically active during the day, less than
2% of the time was spent by children in activities of high enough
intensity to promote cardiovascular health, whereas, 80% of the
time was spent in low intensity activities. Research has shown that
most children do not receive enough fitness-enhancing activity during
play experiences to develop an adequate level of fitness or motor
skill development (Gilliam 1981; Miller 1978). Coronary heart disease
and risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, and elevated serum
cholesterol have been identified in children as young as 2 years
of age (Rose 1973).
to Brink (1995), 64% of K-12 American students do not participate
in a daily physical education program. He further states that physical
exercise is still one of the best ways to stimulate the brain and
learning. The benefits of physical activity on a child’s health
are well documented. Children engaged in daily physical education
show superior motor fitness, academic performance and attitude toward
school as compared to their counterparts who do not participate
in daily physical education (1996 Pollatschek and Hagen). Children
who are active and physically fit have fewer cardiovascular risk
factors than less active children; they encounter lower rates of
coronary heart disease (Ross and Pate 1987), lower blood pressure(
Fraser, Phillips and Harris, 1983) and lower body fat (Sailis, Buono,
Roby, Micale, and Nelson, 1993). Active adolescents tend to feel
less lonely, shy and hopeless than do their physically inactive
peers (Page, 1994). Physical activity was used as a treatment for
hyperactive behavior by Mcgimsby and Favell (1988) who showed that
increased exercise was an efficient means for reducing rates of
aggression and hyperactivity in 8 of 10 mentally retarded subjects.
fitness as a means of curbing unwanted behavior is not always successful.
Despite increased awareness on the benefits of physical fitness,
consensus has not yet been reached on the potential of fitness to
be used as an intervention technique to curb psychological problems.
It is difficult to maintain consistent and intense participation
by the subject. We will prepare for the intervention process with
a variety of daily activities to reduce the monotony and repetitive
nature of the intervention activities.
to a lack of significant differences among groups in the study conducted
by Creekmore (1986), however, were, simply the relatively small
number of subjects actually completing the study. A short physical
fitness-training period and poor adherence to the training regimen
also contribute to inconclusive results. The degree of experimental
control varies markedly. Studies do not measure a change in fitness
to coincide with a change in psychological manifestations. Similarly,
the intensity, frequency, duration and nature of the physical activity
are often not reported in the published literature. The focus on
subjects close to formative development may allow the intervention
to attain the intensity necessary to bring about a significant change
in body chemistry. A child close to formative development may be
more receptive to reaching the level of intensity required by the
proposed intervention. Children
later in development have had a chance to develop more negative
preconceived beliefs and ideas on the benefits of fitness activities.
As the literature supports, this chemical change ultimately
has an impact on behavior so therefore it is imperative that the
subjects are receptive to the proposed intervention.
implications of research investigating the psychological effects
of exercise are readily apparent. Exercise has the potential to
act positively on both the physical and mental health of the patient.
Leith and Taylor (1990) found that 56 of 81 studies (70%) reported
significant improvements on the psychological constructs under consideration
as a result of participation in an exercise program. They also recommended
that future research carefully document prescribed changes in fitness
levels, define the exact nature of physical activity and clearly
report the frequency and duration of the exercise. These have all
been considered and accounted for in our methods.
subject interventions for the most part, have been limited to either
modifications in behavior or psychosomatic drugs. Intense aerobics
have not been tried as a possible behavioral strategy to curb unwanted
behavior and improve student attention levels. These factors, combined
with the simple relationship between exercise and body chemistry,
pave the way for the possibilities of improving student attention
and hyperactivity problems by exposing them to frequent and intense
Peptide molecules (endorphins) are the messengers of our emotional
system. At the cellular level, peptides synthesized within one cell
attach to receptors on the outside of another, promoting either
an increase or decrease in cellular actions.
Endorphins are categorized as a peptide molecule and have
an affect on student behavior in the classroom (Sylvester 1994). Endorphins are also classified
as opiates, which mediate emotions after a painful experience because
they have the ability to reduce pain and increase euphoria.
Endorphin levels can be elevated by exercise and by positive
social contact—hugging, music, a friend’s supportive comments (Levinthal,
1988). These issues will be taken into consideration in our intervention
techniques. Endorphins have also been implicated in the regulation
of the female menstrual cycle, as well as in influencing the response
of numerous other hormones, including GH, ACTH, prolactin, catecholamines
the action of psychostimulant drugs, it is at the cellular level
where endorphins act on the neurotransmitters, which have a causal
effect on electro-cellular actions. If this occurs in large populations
of cells, a change or influence can occur in our emotional states.
“Cell division and protein synthesis are two such changes; both
are heavily involved in the emotion-charged body changes during
adolescence” (Moyers 1992).
on neurotransmitters and hypothalamus-ACTH (a catecholamine) and endorphin
containing cells are found in the anteromedial region of the anterior
lobe, at the posterior boundary. The richest site of endorphins in
the body is the pituitary. The endorphin and ACTH-synthesizing neurons
of the hypothalamus also project to other regions of the brain. This
would increase the possibility that endorphins may also act on the
caudate nucleus. Physiologic actions for these hormones include:(1)morphine
like analgesic properties, (2) euphoria and other behavioral effects,
positive or negative, (3) neurotransmission and other neuromodulating
functions. The endorphins may play a positive role in memory, learning,
response to stress, reproduction, pain transmission and regulation
of appetite, temperature and respiration(Harrisons, 1994 p.448)
studies that have utilized graded maximal exercise tests to examine
the beta endorphic response to exercise have generally reported
elevated beta endorphin levels following exercise (Goldfarb, 1986).
Goldfarb studied the endorphic response to exercise and found an
approximate twofold increase above resting levels.
This agrees with other studies such as the one done by Donevan
(1986). Greater physical
exertion resulted in greater endorphic response with the largest
increase around 80% of illustrated in the graphic results from maximal
oxygen uptake (VO2 max) respiration (Donevan, 1986).
is well documented in both Exercise and Physiology literature that
chemical changes occur in the body after it is exposed to exercise.
The degree of chemical change is dependent on the intensity, duration
and frequency of the aerobic activity. Children as a whole are deficient
in their overall levels of fitness in America. Therefore, it is
reasonable to project that a regular aerobic intervention at 75%
of maximum respiration would indeed be an increase over the child’s
daily activity schedule. This change in physical activity
has the potential to change daily behavior. If children, who are exhibiting
the early symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity can be exposed
to a high incidence of frequent aerobics on a regular basis, then
the affects of muscle exhaustion and increased body chemistry changes
may combine to curb unwanted disruptive behavior.