Academic success with physical education

Monica Gallardo

Caffeine may seem like the ideal solution to the busy and sleep deprived, but physical education instructor Debbie Jensen at has launched the PEDAL (Physical Educators for Discipline, Attitude and Learning) Program in hopes of improving student success with the help of physical education.

“If you’re in your room at night and you’re like, ‘I have to drink a Mountain Dew,’ If you could just get up, you could get your heart rate up. You could do jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups and 10 minutes of that, your heart rate is up, your mind is clear, you didn’t eat the extra calories, you didn’t take in the caffeine- clarity after activity,” she said.

The goal of the PEDAL Program, which will officially launch in spring 2015, is for students to take a physical education class and after that is over, the same group of students will attend an academic class. Next semesters academic courses that are part of the PEDAL Program include Health 100, English 100, Psych 241, Astronomy, Philosophy and Math 40, 60, 112 and 220.

“When students do physical activity it fires up the part of the brain where learning takes place and the students go into the classroom and they do better in their academics,” Jensen said.

She was inspired to bring the program to Cerritos College after reading a book by Harvard Medical School’s Dr. John Ratey and has been collecting data from students who have participated in exercise before studying for four years. “[The students] write a testimony for me stating they did improve in the class and they did have more clarity.”

Student Jasmine Arguello, who has participated in the PEDAL Program, saw her test scores improve after taking a P.E. class prior to studying. She previously passed Math 40 with a C and no P.E. class, and is now taking P.E. classes Monday through Thursday and is passing her Math 60 class with an A.

“I love the feeling of having a P.E. class first and then math right after. It relaxes me and keeps me wide awake while doing math homework or in class. I also recommend this because I know as college students we have a lot of stress and it relieves your stress. I leave all that stress at P.E. class and start my day fresh,” she said.

Philosophy Professor Anna Torres-Bower is also a supporter of the PEDAL Program. “Any type of program that promotes student success, I will be very glad to support. If you exercise and you prepare yourself actively to go to a class, all that activity is going to prepare you to be more receptive, more alert, but we need evidence.”

Jensen said, “The science that is out there right now is supporting what we thought intuitively, but with education you need the science to back it up. If we can prove that student success will improve with physical education, why wouldn’t you want to sign up?”

If any professors or students would like to sign up for a PEDAL academic course, they can call (Ext. 2867) or e-mail Jensen ([email protected]) for a list of participating classes.

A student can take a PEDAL academic class without being enrolled in P.E. so their results will be compared with those who did take a P.E. class.

“But what we’re hoping to happen after this first semester is that the results will bare out enough evidence that more teachers will want to participate and we have demand from the students,” she said.

Arguello added, “Instead of drinking coffee or an energy drink to stay up and do homework or study for an exam, take a fitness class. This is beneficial to us students and I believe in this program.”