Physical Activity Across the Lifespan

Volume 12 of the series Issues in Children's and Families' Lives pp 235-265


The Mandate for Movement: Schools as Agents of Change

  • John J. RateyAffiliated withHarvard Medical School Email author 
  • , Jacob SattelmairAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health

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We present a compelling evolutionary and scientific rationale for why movement (physical activity) must be viewed as essential in promoting students’ physical and mental health, learning, and education. Because the human genome has encoded evolutionarily mandated cycling between periods of activity and rest, healthy gene expression and physiological function depend on regular movement. Yet our current culture, marked largely by sedentarism, has largely failed to heed the host of evidence that the mind and body require regular physical activity to function optimally. This disconcerting development has caused evolutionary cycles to stall, leading to metabolic derangement, epidemic chronic disease, and insidious patterns of mental disorders and addiction. Catalyzing change to combat this trend requires a global front in which every individual, community, and organization has a role. Schools, in particular, present a uniquely advantageous opportunity to acculturate future generations with the knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed for a lifetime of healthy activity.