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15:19 PM

Reuters: Physical Activity Can Lead to Improved School Performance

By Lisa Rapaport

Students who get extra physical activity may pay more attention in school and do better in subjects like reading and math, a research review suggests.

The study team analyzed data from 26 previously published studies with a total of more than 10,000 children between 4 and 13 years old. All of the prior studies measured the impact of a variety of physical activity programs on academic performance.

The authors also looked at whether the effect of exercise differed across academic subjects. Although the benefit of physical activity was strongest for mathematics, it was only slightly smaller for other subjects like language and reading, meaning that physical activity benefits learning in all academic subjects.

“Exercise influences the brain by increasing cerebral blood flow, which increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients and promotes blood capillaries formation, increases the neuronal connectivity through the promotion of the synaptogenesis and the availability of neurotransmitters,” said study coauthor Ivan Cavero Redondo of Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Cuenca, Spain.

“Beyond the neurobiological explanations, exercise includes an important social component that fosters its benefits on mental health,” Redondo said by email.

At a time when many schools struggle to set aside time for gym classes amid a push to raise test scores by devoting more time to academics, the findings offer fresh evidence that physical activity is one way to help boost kids’ grades.

Physical activity may help kids do better in school by improving behavior, memory and cognitive function, said Jordan Carlson, a researcher at Children’s Mercy Kansas City who wasn’t involved in the study.

A substantial amount of evidence shows that physical activity improves kids’ attention and behavior in the classroom and reduces classroom disruptions.
Jordan Carlson, Director of Community-Engaged Health Research at Center for Children's Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition at Children's Mercy

“Kids have an internal drive to be physically active, and inhibiting their need to be physically active during school can lead to behavioral problems.”

Because kids often get too little exercise time during the school day, parents need to provide these opportunities outside of school, Carlson added.

“However, the beneficial effect of physical activity on academic achievement appears to be specific to school-based physical activity,” Carlson said. “Parents should talk with their children, teachers, and administrators about opportunities for physical activity at school.”


Read the full article via Reuters

Learn more about the Children's Research Institute at Children's Mercy.