Exergaming as a P.E. Solution

By Dan Lawler, originally released on the Exergame Fitness blog 02/06/10


Tavelli Spark Lab (Exergaming Lab)

Thinking on the Move

What all school administrators are facing today is an increased demand for higher test scores, often times at the expense of reducing physical education or the amount of recess time elementary students receive each day. As a principal for over 30 years, I have to say that I certainly was victim to that pressure until I realized that the approach was fundamentally flawed.

We, as educational leaders, have moved too far away from the thought of a sound body and sound mind. In my former district, students received physical education only five times a month. In addition, the reduction of recess time and the increased seat time in the classroom mirrored what is happening nationally. We actually prescribed to the idea that if we worked harder at doing the same thing over and over, we would get better results. Thus, we had six year olds not receiving any physical activity for nearly three hours of morning instruction! It wasn’t that we were not well -intended, we just were not well-informed.

As a school we started to look deeply into the research on the effects of exercise and learning. It became very clear that we had not only lost balance in our approach to education, we were simply not putting students in the most advantageous position to learn. We began to realize that in this competitive world, the school system that wants to maximize students’ progress must provide a foundation of physical activity to prime cognitive functioning.

Beyond Exciting!!

Exergaming products inside Tavelli School - Colorado

Exergaming products inside Tavelli School - Colorado

As a school staff, we found compelling reasons to make changes in the amount of fitness our students were receiving. We decided to significantly increase the amount of fitness time for our students through innovative strategies. The most remarkable aspect of that change was the development of an Exercise 4 Learning lab that revolutionized our school. We implemented a 28-station Exergaming lab that changed almost every aspect of our school day. In 30 years as a school administrator, this was the most innovative and exciting intervention I had ever been a part of implementing.

The results were striking. The whole school experience changed when something so fun and so good for students was now embedded into their weekly schedule. The Exercise 4 Learning lab supplemented our current physical education program and enhanced the activity level of students by doubling the amount of exercise our kids were receiving each week. What was even more profound was the enthusiasm displayed by our students—they loved their new experience! When teachers listed their daily schedule on the board in the morning, their students would scream with delight when the schedule included a period of time in the lab. When students were surveyed about they liked most about the school, the lab was listed as their favorite activity. Furthermore, teachers reported a positive change in their students’ focus and attention levels after their students returned from the lab.

Why implement an Exergaming lab in your school? First, exercise fires up the brain for learning, making students better prepared for cognitive retention. Second, students who have daily physical activity demonstrate improved behavior and less disciplinary problems in the classroom. Third, Exergaming provides a new and exciting way to draw students into a healthy lifestyle by letting them experience the fun and confidence associated with being physically fit. Fourth, Exergaming is a powerful way to change the trend that reduces physical education in our schools and will actually enhance your current program. Fifth, from an efficiency point of view, our lab installation cost about half a staffing unit to create but serves over 500 students and will last a significant number of years. The Exercise 4 Learning lab is a very economical intervention for any school looking to improve academic achievement, student behavior, and fitness for all students. Finally, did I mention that we have an obesity and sedentary life style crisis in our country? Our Exergaming lab is the best intervention I have seen that counters both of these patterns while also improving school performance.

Dan Lawler 

Dan Lawler, Ph.D.
Exergame Fitness Educational Consultant