October 25, 2018

Rachael Tom

Improving Student Focus with Physical Activities

Topics: Learning at Home, Learning Through Play


There is no doubt that academic learning is important, but what happens when it's paired with physical activity in the classroom? It turns out that there are many benefits linked to combining the two subjects, resulting in a more focused class of students.


Anthony Flores, a Special Education teacher at the Odssey Learning Center stated, “I am always looking for new and interactive ways for my students to learn. It is hard sometimes for my students to stay engaged in activities and my students have a hard time staying on task.” He found games that incorporated physical activity worked well for this students, which include Yoga Spiner. “My students enjoyed the interactive aspect of the game and it changed the way they looked at yoga. Before the spinner game my students did not like yoga too much. When we started to make the game more interactive, the students began to really enjoy yoga a lot more. They started to seek out the yoga game and started to interact with their peers in a way I had not seen before. The students were more encouraged to participate in the activity and were more inclined to be encouraging to their friends,” stated Flores.

Taking a break from the standard academic structure to do a physical activity such as unstructured play, dancing, or yoga, allows children to take a brain break. Below are some of the biggest ways children benefit from these activities in the classroom.


Improved Focus

Romina Barros, co-author of the study and developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn stated, “If you are able to behave in class, you are able to pay attention and grasp more concepts.” When students are able to take a break from the classroom by attending recess, they’re able to focus more in the classroom and absorb more knowledge as a result.

A student’s ability to absorb more information is related to how much exercise they get. Research shows that physical exercise is also tied to academic performance. According to the article “Physical activity may help kids do better in school, studies say,” Jill Adams writes that students who were more fit got better scores on standardized academic tests. In addition, students who were more active showed “greater attention” and had “faster cognitive processing speed.” Many students spend their unstructured time running around and playing games, and time spent exercising has shown greater academic benefits than more time spent in the classroom.


One activity that has become popular in schools and after-school groups is yoga. Multiple studies from ISRN Pediatrics and the Journal of Attention Disorders found that practicing yoga drastically decreases the side effects of Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD). ADHD has become increasingly prevalent in American society - as of 2011, 6.4 million children aged 4-17 have been diagnosed with it. Yoga is affordable and accessible to everyone, so it's no wonder teachers and parents are beginning to share their love of yoga with their children. By practicing yoga concepts such as deep breathing and controlled movements, children are able to center their emotions and energy levels, making it easier for them to concentrate in class.


Social and Emotional Development

Students also gain social and emotional benefits from having breaks for physical activity. These breaks present students with situations that develop important communication skills such as:

  • Cooperation
  • Problem-solving
  • Negotiation
  • Compromise
  • Conflict Management 

Communication skills like these are important for children to learn because they empower them to effectively work collaboratively and persevere.


Some physical activities like playing games can help strengthen the classroom community and develop 21st century critical thinking skills, while practicing yoga in the classroom teaches students gratitude, self-discipline, and collaboration. Every physical activity provides different benefits.


The next time your students start getting antsy, consider giving their brains a break with some physical activities! They’ll likely return from the break refreshed, refocused, and more receptive to what you have to say. To get started, check out our favorite yoga games for the classroom: Yoga Dice (NEW), Yoga Spinner, and Yoga Cards. To learn more about the benefits of physical activity and games, see our previous blog posts: Why Yoga is Important in a Child’s Life, The Importance of Recess, and The Benefits of a Board Game Club.

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