Active Kids Do Better in School

A recent study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) investigated the link between physical activity in children and academic performance in school. Initially, researchers predicted that kids who took physical education (PE) during the school day would do better academically, since it helps reduce boredom and helps kids stay focused.

The study, reported in ACSM's official journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, examined 214 children of middle school age. All students were randomly assigned to a PE class in either the first or second semester of the school year. Researchers collected information on each student's activity level in and outside of the PE class, and compared their level of activity to their grades in the subjects of math, science, world studies and English.

Surprisingly, researchers found that being enrolled in PE (moderate activity for 30 minutes, 5 days per week) did not influence the children's grades. The government's Healthy People 2010 guidelines recommend vigorous activity for 20 minutes, at least 3 days per week. This study showed that the more active children were, such as participating in a sport or other vigorous activity, the better they did in school. Most of the children who did exercise "vigorously" did so outside of school, by playing sports like soccer, basketball, football, baseball and softball.

Action Sparked: These ACSM researchers recommend that physical education classes include more vigorous activities for kids. Other research also shows that active children do better in school, are better able to concentrate, and even exhibit fewer behavior problems. If your child's school isn't requiring enough physical activity, encourage your child to participate in a school or club sport that she enjoys. Team sports teach kids more than fitness—they improve motor skills, increase self-esteem, and foster cooperation and teamwork. Even non-athletic children can meet physical activity recommendations with non-competitive activities such as biking, swimming and jogging and by dancing or playing games like tag.
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Member Comments

Thank you Report
Thank you! Report
When my kids were young they didn't have cell phones so they played outside a lot and if they were in the house they found things to do besides watching tv. Report
Good article;e Report
It seems like common sense Report
they sure do! Report
Indeed... Report
We all need to get active with or without children. Report
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I do believe that brains work better when the body isn't restless, just from my personal experience, but reading this study I can't help wonder about confounding factors. The randomization was applied to PE class, and that had no effect. The correlation between outside activity and school performance doesn't have to be that activity causes better performance in school. It could be kids doing well in school are rewarded by their parents with team membership. Or, more likely, kids in safe neighborhoods with lots of playground and team opportunities are also those with the supports to do well in school. Report
My kids and grandkids love to bike. Report
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.