Healthy living

Exercise may boost children's school grades

Exercise may boost children s school grades Increases blood flow, lowers stress

Being physically active may help to boost a child's academic achievement in the classroom, a study suggests.

A review of 14 studies by Dutch researchers found "strong evidence" to suggest that children who are more physically active do better at school.

Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center, Amsterdam, investigated the relationship between physical activity and academic performance because of concerns that pressure to improve children's school grades may result in children spending more time in the classroom with less time for physical activity.

The researchers analysed data from 14 previous studies. Twelve of the studies were carried out in the United States, one in Canada and one in South Africa.

Sample sizes ranged from 53 to about 12,000 boys and girls aged between six and 18, and the participants were tracked from eight weeks to more than five years.

"According to the best-evidence synthesis, we found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," said Dr Amika Singh, who led the research.

"The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children."

Exercise may help children in the classroom by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, the researchers said.

This may increase the levels of hormones such as norepinephrine and endorphins, which lower stress and improve mood while increasing growth factors that help create new nerve cells.

However, the researchers also said that further work was needed to confirm the findings.

"Relatively few studies of high methodological quality have explored the relationship between physical activity and academic performance," the researchers wrote in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"More high-quality studies are needed on the dose-response relationship between physical activity and academic performance and on the explanatory mechanisms, using reliable and valid measurement instruments to assess this relationship accurately," the authors concluded.

This article was published on Tue 3 January 2012

Image © Anders Lundstedt -

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