Exercise Improves Kids Academic Performance

Matengo Chwanya's picture

I believe the main reason a lot of people get into exercise is to get the body into a decent state of health; apparently, the attempt to get our teens into proper physical health also improves their academics in many different ways.

A British study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows a direct correlation between regular engagement in physical activities and improved academic performance in subsequent years.

Exercise Class, Havana, Cuba

A Long Term Study Is Examined

Researchers from Strathclyde University, the University of Dundee, the University of Bristol and the University of Georgia took data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to examine this relationship between physical activity and academic performance.

5,000 children were involved in their analysis. In the original study, the children’s physical activity was measured by an accelerometer attached to their belts.  Their academic performances were all recorded, and possible mediating events, such as socioeconomic standing were also factored. The researchers recorded the children’s performances at 11, 13 and 16 years. English, Math and Science were the three subjects the researchers focused on.

Read also: Aerobic Fitness Boosts Learning and Memory in Children

Girls Outshine Boys

It was found that only 12 minutes of exercise brought about an improvement in girls, while 17minutes of exercise was required for boys to show an improvement in academic performance.  Of the three subjects evaluated, girls showed the greatest improvements in performance in science. Performance improved over the years as the teens engaged in regular exercise.

But the researchers also noted that on average, these children only got about 29 minutes of exercise daily, which is a far cry from the 60 minutes of exercise recommended daily for teens.

Previous Studies Confirm This Association

 There have been studies in the past that have shown that exercise induces a few positive changes in the brain, including enhancing synaptic plasticity (synapses connect neurons) and stimulating neurogenesis (formation of nerve tissue). Exercise has also been shown to stimulate brain-related growth factors.

A Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) research conducted in 2010 reaffirms this linkage between exercise and academic performance in a more direct manner. The CDC researchers pored over 50 articles that had conducted previous research on academic performance and physical exercise.  

In this research it was found that exercise improved cognitive skills such as memory, verbal abilities and concentration in class. Academic behavior such as class attendance and completing homework was found to be improved in students who regularly engaged in exercise. Academic achievement in standardized tests was also improved in students who regularly exercised.

The study also found that brain physiology was profoundly improved by regular exercise. Among the key changes were an increase in the density of neural network, blood flow, and the growth of cerebral capillaries. But perhaps the most important change noted was hippocampus neurogenesis; the hippocampus is the center of learning, and has been extensively studied to determine the exact mechanisms through which exercise brings about such remarkable brain improvements.

On To Another Matter…

As I have mentioned, the children observed in this study spent an average of 29 minutes a day instead of 60 minutes, and these kids were at least 11 years old. A new study suggests that maybe the recommended time interval should be raised to about 85 minutes, to cater for 20 minutes of vigorous physical exercise. The study conducted by University of Zaragoza researchers analyzed data taken from 3,120 children drawn from 8 European nations. The children were aged between 2 to 9 years, and were being evaluated for their risk of cardiovascular diseases.

What they found out is that introducing kids to physical exercises at around 6 years of age showed much greater promise in lowering the probability of developing CVDs.

In Conclusion

Exercise imparts numerous health benefits, and it is apparent that the earlier kids are introduced to it, the better their future health are likely to be. And I am talking about all-round health, not just physical well-being; yank those kids from game consoles and TVs and get them out in the field.


Exercise 'boosts academic performance' of teenagers

Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation.

Exercise: a behavioral intervention to enhance brain health and plasticity.

The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: a systematic review of the literature.5

Physical activity and clustered cardiovascular disease risk factors in young children: a cross-sectional study (the IDEFICS study)

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