EDITORIAL: When kids are active, they do better in school, period.

Kanawha Elementary gets kids active, having fun, during the half-hour before school when they would otherwise be sitting on bleachers. A great idea, proven by research to help kids focus and concentrate. School should look for such opportunities.

See the video, part of our series “The Shape We’re In,” at http://bit.ly/KanawhaElementary.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If you haven’t already, take three minutes and watch students at Kanawha Elementary School in Wood County during their morning exercise routine.

During the half hour before school starts, these students are not ordered to sit in the bleachers, training for a sedentary lifestyle. They are not fussed at for squirming or fidgeting. Their teachers and principal have created an environment where they can stretch and move to wake up their minds and bodies.

Kanawha Elementary is also teaching the students by example. Human bodies need physical activity, at least a little bit, every day. It should be part of the schedule.

The video by Douglas Imbrogno and Kate Long shows it in action. Each morning, students spend 15 minutes or so taking turns with hula-hoops and bouncing on plastic balls. Watch them and you can feel it in your own abs and joints. They do pushups and jump rope. They lie on flat scooters and wheel themselves around with their arms. They roll down a pretend bowling lane and knock real pins over with their bodies. Everyone is moving all the time. No one sits or lounges.

For a little bit of money and some creative thinking, the school has added a healthy habit to the students’ day. When it is time to go to class, students gather the balls, ropes, pins and other materials and walk them to a closet. All is tidy and ready for the day.

Later, teachers wheel a cart from another closet with materials for a short burst of activity right in their classrooms.

This effort stands out because West Virginia faces a serious problem — the expense of caring for chronic, preventable disease is eating every budget public and private. As reporter Kate Long’s stories have shown, preventable diseases are killing West Virginians prematurely at an alarming rate, and the signs are now visible in children. By fifth grade today, 24 percent of the state’s children have high blood pressure, 26 percent have high cholesterol and 29 percent are obese. This is a recipe for premature death from diabetes, heart attacks and stroke. There are many parts of the problem, but one part of the solution is clear: Children will move and exercise pretty easily, if adults create the time and space for it.

West Virginia Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple is asking schools to give students at least 15 minutes of physical activity each day. Kanawha Elementary is an example of how to get started, at least with young students.

Teachers there found what a lot of people learn when they begin an exercise habit. What they started to benefit the body is also good for the mind. Children leave their morning exercise session alert but calm, ready to pay attention and learn. Elsewhere in Wood County, researchers have confirmed that physical fitness is associated with better academic performance.

The Wood County school is an inspiration. Take a moment to watch the video and share it with teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members you know. There is no reason why every student in West Virginia cannot have this simple, healthy start to the day.

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