This guest post comes to us from food blogger and child development copywriter,Tori Galatro.
When we exercise as adults, the cognitive effects are evident. We feel more alert, sustain better focus, and feel less anxious and antsy throughout the day. The same is true for children. But despite increasing evidence
that these positive cognitive effects improve the performance of children in school, most schools in the U.S. fail to incorporate even the minimum standard for recommended exercise into their curriculum. Meanwhile, the amount of time children spend exercising daily has continuously diminished over the past 30-40 years
, and continues to drop.
According to an Active Living Research study, exercise not only increases attention and focus in the short term, but has also been shown to have significant effects in the long term, specifically in the areas of mathematics, reading, and writing, as long as regular exercise is sustained.
In a research brief from 2015, Active Living Research sites numerous studies that document notable academic improvement among children participating in regular exercise in school, across a broad range of ages, ethnicities, and income-levels. In one study, standardized test scores were shown to increase by 6 percent among elementary school children who are taught academic material in a physically active manner. Similarly, a Canadian study found that 4th and 5th graders perform better on standardized tests when a physical education class is incorporated into their curriculum. Perhaps most fascinating is a study in which 11 and 12 year olds performed better in a vocabulary memory game, when enrolled in a physical education class, than their sedentary counterparts.
A 2010 study called "The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance
", conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services, although inconclusive as to whether physical activity helped children academically, clearly stated that there was no negative impact found on academic performance when more time throughout the school day was devoted to physical education, even if that meant decreasing study time, reassuring educators that allotting more time to physical activity for health alone would not sacrifice academic growth. Since that time, in 2010, the quantity of yearly studies devoted to this subject has only increased.
It has been proven
that people who exercise regularly as children are more likely to exercise regularly as adults, benefitting from the positive cognitive effects throughout their lifetime. In fact, the earlier children are encouraged to exercise regularly, the better.
The link between academic achievement and physical activity is a hot topic among researchers, and more data is published on the subject yearly. However, the question of whether the academic improvements are due to changes in health, weight, brain activity, some combination, or something else altogether, remain to be definitively answered. Whatever the reason, students only stand to gain from a more physically active lifestyle, and education.