Anyone who has looked in on a classroom lately knows what teachers are up against--glazed eyes, foot tapping, staring out the window, or just plain falling asleep.

We know that physical education is key to controlling childhood obesity, but can it also help your child keep focus?

Yes, according to East Carolina University researchers. Their research, headed up by Exercise and Sport Science Professor Matt Mahar, shows that sneaking physical education into the classroom can keep students more on-task.

Mahar’s 12-week study of 62 third and fourth graders found that after 10-minutes of movement-based exercise students were more attentive. The study showed the program worked especially well for students least on-task before the activity.

“I think this study shows teachers that they can have their kids be physically active in class and not only maintain academic performance, but improve it,” Mahar says.

How do these so-called “energizers” work? An example energizer for students K-2 is called “Over, Under and Through.” Students line up around the perimeter of the room. The teacher decides on a pattern where students go over, under, around and through imaginary or real objects (over a wiggly bridge, under water, around a chair, through a sea of Jell-O). The teacher then leads the students around the room following this pattern.

Classroom exercises for middle school students make more use of academic concepts. In “Jumping Jack Math” the teacher calls out an addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problem. The student must mentally solve the problem and perform the corresponding number of jumping jacks or other movements (knee lifts, squats, bicep curls with math book, etc…)

But, how much will ten minutes a day do? According to Mahar, that’s about the equivalent of moving 70 miles a school year.

If the trend catches on, you may find your antsy-pants that much more engaged in the classroom.