Gateway Academy: Working out for student success

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- We know working out is good for us, but it could also be a valuable tool in the classroom. A 2013 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day can improve attention and scholastic performance in children with ADHD. At Gateway Academy, a school for students with learning difficulties, physical activity is proving to be a crucial component to student success.

"Physical activity, whether you like it or not, has a positive effect on your brain," said Scott Adams, principal. "However, if you make it fun and they are engaged then the positive benefit is exponentially greater."

Before classes even begin, every student takes part in Fit Club, a daily half hour of exercise that sets the stage for the rest of the school day.

"Workout can be horrible but when you make it a game, it's like you don't think about working out," said Sadie Swidensky, Gateway Academy student.

Language Arts Teacher Ashley Hypes is the spin instructor at the school. She sees the effects on students both inside and outside the classroom.

"Any student, especially a student with a learning disability that has trouble paying attention, getting their heart rate up for at least for 30 to 45 minutes a day really increases their ability to focus," said Hypes.

At Gateway Academy about 70 percent of students have ADHD and 60 percent have high functioning autism. Many of the students have both. Exercise can help students with learning differences better manage their moods, as well as improve their confidence.

"Occasionally a student will come in late and they won't have participated in Fit Club. You'll notice them struggling to catch up or get involved with the other students who have exercised, who have gotten their hearts beating, who have raised their blood pressure and gotten their minds focused," said Adams.

Each Friday of the school year students are required to run a mile. Denito Kelly says his son Patrick disliked running until he came to Gateway.

"His first mile was 22 to 23 minutes, which I question if he was walking it or slowly walking it. Now he just broke nine minutes, which is a huge deal," said Kelly.

At Gateway Academy, physical fitness is meant to mirror real world activities.

"They are learning how to do things they will need as an adult. Spin class, Pilates, running, basketball and then you know incorporate some dance movements into it," said Kelly. "It's been amazing."

With each workout, Gateway Academy students do more than just build strong muscles. They are also building the confidence they need as they prepare for the future.

In addition to Fit Club, students get two fitness breaks a day. They can also ask their teachers for extra time to work out.
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