Increased Physical Activity Linked to Improved School Performance

First Posted: Oct 15, 2014 05:46 AM EDT

Participating in extra physical activity for just two hours every week can boost school performance, a new study states.  

Scientists at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, conducted a study on 2,000 participants, aged 12 years. They investigated if physical activity boosts learning and improves school performance.

To proceed with the finding, the researchers assigned 408 participants from the Gothenburg region to two hours of extra play and motion activities per week, in collaboration with a local sports club. This was twice the normal amount of curricular physical activity.

The schools were chosen carefully for this study and the scientists highlighted that they are comparable with respect to the number of boys and girls, the fraction of pupils with foreign background and the average level of income, unemployment and education of parents.

The effect of the intervention was assessed by comparing the achievement of the national learning goals by the children four years prior and five years after the implementation. They then compared the results to the control groups in three schools that did not receive extra physical activity.

They noticed that most of the students from the intervention school achieved the national learning goals in all subjects examined that included Swedish, English and mathematics as compared to the control groups.

"You can express it that two hours of extra physical education each week doubled the odds that a pupil achieves the national learning goals. We did not see a corresponding improvement in the control schools, where the pupils did not receive extra physical activity - rather the contrary, a deterioration," said scientist and neurologist Thomas Linden at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

The result of the current study is in line with previous studies that highlighted an association between physical activity and cognition.

"We have obtained a significantly better understanding of the mechanisms of learning in recent years. And it's very gratifying to be able to conclude that it is possible to improve the school performance of young pupils with relatively simple means," said Thomas Linden.

The article was published in the Journal of School Health in August.

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