The stereotype of the athlete with bad performance at school may be wrong, according to a new study made at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The research, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, concludes that doing exercise, whether at the school or during free time, leads to better academic performance.
The debate over the importance of physical education at school has been traditionally oriented toward health, but the influence it may have on other subjects such as maths or language was uncertain. Now it seems that there is a direct link between them.
Apart from the fact that exercising increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, thus helping perception, there could be other reasons as well. “Children who learn to participate in sport also learn to obey rules. This may mean they are more disciplined and able to concentrate better during lessons.” said Amika Singh, a researcher at the VU University Medical Center who worked on the study.
The finding is based on the analysis of 14 previous studies, 10 observational and 4 interventional. The former are founded on the following of individuals tracking their academic performance through months to years, while the latter are based on comparisons between kids under similar conditions that made more or less exercise.
However, there is no need to rest all in the hands of teachers and school programs, as exercising is also linked to habits and routine. “Maybe it’s an activity break, stand up every half an hour in class and do something,” says Singh, “it might mean going to school by bike… Any kind of physical activity you can think of. It doesn’t mean only the physical education standard class.”
Amika Singh, PhD, Léonie Uijtdewilligen, MSc, Jos W. R. Twisk, PhD, Willem van Mechelen, PhD, MD, & Mai J. M. Chinapaw, PhD (2012). Physical Activity and Performance at School. A Systematic Review of the Literature Including a Methodological Quality Assessment. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. : 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.716