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Scientific Analysis -
Benefits of Fitness on Children

As 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).

According 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. 

Physical 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.

Factors contributing 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.

The 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.

ADHD 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 aerobic activity.

Alternative Intervention
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 and cortisol.

Like 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).

Endorphic action 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)

Previous 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).

It 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.

Reference Source 119

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