Bodies in Motion: More Health and Better Learning in an Enriched Physical Environment

Schools are no longer educational establishments where teachers lecture and pupils sit still and listen in silence. Instead, they are increasingly turning into institutions that “move people” and that adhere to principles of holistic learning and living.

The purpose of a human-based educational concept is to promote holistic learning, shape and organize school life, and support school development. This conceptualization envisions school as a learning and living space. In such a space, physical activity is incorporated into everyday school life to promote the health, well-being, and educational development of students and to enhance the overall quality of time spent in school.

The complex human system — the intricate balance of body, mind and soul — is not designed to sit still. Over the course of millions of years of evolution, environmental factors have gradually shaped the human genome. One of the most vital behavioral adaptations of humans is their ability to exhibit resilience through physical activity.

Physical inactivity is related to almost all types of chronic diseases including heart insufficiency, Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, gall stones, depression, early aging, neurodegeneration, and even early death. On the cellular level, changes are even more dramatic: inactivity decreases neurogenesis in specific parts of the brain responsible for memory and motor learning.

Design Strategies That Activate Daily School Life
Spontaneous physical activity, in comparison to athletics play or workouts (which normally take place at certain times and in certain places), serves an important role in stimulating the sensomotoric system and balancing the body, mind and soul. Involuntary activity is not chosen and therefore bypasses higher cortical functions that voluntary exercise must cycle through on the way to implementation.

Spontaneous movement is composed of complex synaptic relationships which should be encouraged by movement persuasions like those found in rocking/flexible chairs, standing desks, mini trampolines, and classroom spaces that encourage hands-on learning and activity. Complementary arrangements like walking halls, outdoor classrooms, stairwells, and alternative modes of school transportation help inject physical activity into daily routines. Consistent activity overall plays a major role in maintaining body weight, caloric intake, overall health, and better brain function. It also supports students with ADHD problems.

Dr. Dieter Breithecker is a German Health and Kinetics Scientist. He is the head of the Federal Institute on the Development of Posture and Exercise in Germany and a member of “Ergonomics for Children & Educational Environment” (ECEE), a technical committee of the International Ergonomics Association. Between 1994 and 1999, he worked as managing director of an Ambulatory Rehabilitation Center with emphasis in orthopedic traumatological syndromes. Breithecker is widely published on the subject of Ergonomics for Children and Human Workstations. As an international expert he has been presenting all over Europe, Asia, Indonesia, North America, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

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