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The benefits of physical activity for school-aged children are proven. Healthy school environments help students achieve their academic potential and support the development of life-long healthy habits.
Stefanie Gillett is Vista Charter Academy's 14-year physical education instructor veteran, who led the school’s work recognized and awarded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with a School Wellness Award. Vista was one of 28 Michigan schools awarded for fostering healthy eating, physical activity habits, tobacco-free lifestyles, and impacting the health of students.  
 Students exercising outdoors.

Gillett believes students benefit from any physical activity that last 30 to 60 minutes daily. The activity should increase a person’s heart rate and breathing. Throughout the year, the Vista Health team focuses on physical activity and education, healthy school environment, staff wellness, and family engagement. Gillett shares 10 benefits of physical activity.
  1. Better focus in school. When the brain activates following exercise, it can better concentrate and helps improve memory and information retention. This helps students to perform better and learn more information during classroom lessons.
  2. Improves school attendance. Students who participate in regular physical activity are less likely to get sick and be absent from school. The immune system gets stronger and ready to fight illnesses better.
  3. Better academic performance. Studies show that students who are physically active get better grades in the classroom. These students also perform better on standardized tests and have higher graduation rates.
  4. Builds a strong, healthy body. Students that develop a routine for physical activity when they are younger lower their risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other life-altering diseases and conditions. This helps them build a healthier and strong body for a longer life.
  5. Improves sleep quality. Students that participate in physical activity get better sleep and achieve a deeper sleep that helps their body to recover from exercise. Better sleep increases their ability to focus or concentrate their energy levels, and better manage stress.
  6. Reduces risk of anxiety and depression. Activity helps release endorphins, the feel-good hormones in the body that help reduce stress therefore relieving feelings of anxiety and depression.
  7. Develops better social and problem-solving skills. Participating in activities that include working with others on a team or a group help students develop positive social and problem-solving skills. Students learn to cooperate with others, encourage teammates, and achieve a goal. 
  8. Builds self-confidence. Finding a skill, activity, or sport a student can find success at helps build self-confidence which helps students try new skills, learn new information, and take risks.
  9. More energy. A body in motion stays in motion. When a student participates in regular physical activity, they will have more energy and be alert throughout their day. This helps them engage in their learning and enjoy class.
  10. It’s fun! It is important for all students to just have fun! Finding an activity a student enjoys and finds pleasure in will help increase the likelihood of them participating in physical activity for their lifetime.
Starting in kindergarten, be a partner with your child’s teacher and school in getting them physically active. Students can excel academically if there is structure and support in their physical activity as well.


Vista Charter Academy is a K-8, tuition-free, public charter school located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is part the National Heritage Academies network of over 90 schools across nine states.

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