Exercise can help your kids do better in school


Exercise and academic prowess

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Score another win for exercise. It looks like physical activity helps kids and adolescents do better in school.

A consensus statement published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which distils the best available evidence on the effect of physical activity on children and young people, was drawn up by a panel of international experts with a wide range of specialties, from the U.K., Scandinavia and North America, in Copenhagen, Denmark, in April of this year.

It includes 21 separate statements on the four themes of:

  • fitness and health;
  • intellectual performance;
  • engagement, motivation and well-being; and
  • social inclusion.

It also spans structured and unstructured forms of physical activity for 6 to 18 year olds in school and during leisure time. The statement argues that:

  • Physical activity and cardio-respiratory fitness are good for children's and young people's brain development and function as well as their intellect.
  • A session of physical activity before, during, and after school boosts academic prowess.
  • A single session of moderately energetic physical activity has immediate positive effects on brain function, intellect, and academic performance.
  • Mastery of basic movement boosts brain power and academic performance.
  • Time taken away from lessons in favor of physical activity does not come at the cost of getting good grades.

These findings are particularly important when you consider that cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness are strong predictors of the risk of developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in later life. Because vigorous exercise in childhood helps to keep these risk factors in check, it could mean we have in our hands a big win for preventative care. Even moderate exercise — if done frequently enough — can improve a child's heart health and metabolism.

The statement makes a strong case for the incorporation of physical activities in schools. In addition to the positive effects of exercise on physical health, it can also help children develop important life skills, boost their self esteem and strengthen relationships with parents, peers and coaches.