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

We all need to get active with or without children. Report
Good article. Report
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It's good to keep kids active. 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
And think not, you can direct the course of love;
for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
- Khalil Gibran Report
I always make sure my son is on the move.... If I was to find out PE or recess was with held I would be up at that school as that isn't right as it helps release energy Report
Yes ...good article Report
As a teacher, I never withhold PE from a student. Kids need that outdoor time to release the energy of having to sit and focus all day. Report
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As a kid who wasn't terribly athletic, PE taught me that exercise is boring, hard, and humiliating. Judging from so many similar comments, it seems like a common experience. Certainly it wouldn't take a great deal of creativity to overhaul PE curriculum to teach fitness on a more personal level. Honestly, had my 8th grade gym teacher not berated me for not being able to run a mile and taught me the proper way to run, maybe I would have learned to enjoy running 25 years sooner than I did. Report
John Ratey, MD wrote a book called Spark. He shares success stories including a high school in Chicago in which the PE teachers revolutionized how they taught PE class. The standardized test scores went up.It's an excellent book.

http://www.spar
kinglife.org/

There are a lot of factors why kids may not do well in school. Exercise before school starts seems to "get the energy out" and helps kids retain more information and to learn better even if they've got terrible circumstances.

Exercise certainly might be a good thing to start earlier in life. My dad played baseball in high school and was quite good. Not good enough to go to do it professionally. Yet, he was dead set against exercise as a formal practice. He was hateful of PE class. It's not an exaggeration. At the time when my body was changing from child to adolescent, I gained lots of weight. I ran around the farm as a kid so I was literally a skinny stick of a kid. I had to learn to exercise once I left home.

School should be about reading, writing and arithmetic. A lot of kids don't get enough exercise especially today when parents are scared their kids will be kidnapped or killed and so kids stay stay inside "where it's safe".
Report
Let's differentiate between being active and playing in organized sports.
In addition to being a soul-sucking time drain for parents, the risks associated with competitive sports must be high.
This is purely anecdotal, mind you; I recently had to go through physical therapy for a back problem, and I found the number of children undergoing post-surgical therapy for injuries sustained while playing organized sports to be alarming.

And don't get me started on the horrendous amount of education tax dollars wasted on competitive sports.
Gym class and recess? Yes.
PIAA sports teams? NO. Report


 

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.