Connecting Physical Activity and Good Grades
Multiple studies have proven that physical activity during formative years (0-18) can have life-long effects on overall health. Children who are active from preschool through college tend to have fewer health problems as they age, even when they reach their 40s, 50s, and beyond.
According to a Swedish study, the effects are visible from the very beginning. Children who are active in school tend to be smarter and perform better in the classroom as well as on the field. Research out of Lund University found that primary school children who participate in daily physical education classes have significantly better performance than children who don't. More than 630 students were analyzed, with their activity levels tracked between year one and year nine. The researchers also collected data from 1.1 million students around the country, for both active and inactive students.
The data showed that active children had grades an average of 13 points (out of 320) higher than their inactive counterparts. The number of active children who qualified for upper-secondary school increased by 7%, with more visible increases compared to children from the rest of the country.
Oddly enough, the real difference was only among the boys. Girls who were more physically active didn't show significant improvement over their inactive counterparts. The average girl student already has higher grades than the average boy, even without physical activity. That's not to say that girls won't benefit from exercise—the muscle, bone, cardiovascular, cognitive, and hormonal benefits are well-documented—but it simply means that there is a very visible difference in performance when boys do exercise.
If your child is struggling at school, it's time to enroll them in a course of physical activity. Even if they don't love gym class (and very few children do), you should consider putting them in after-school classes: soccer, martial arts, football, basketball, baseball, hockey, or anything that encourages them to move around. As this study proves, daily physical education will help to improve their minds as well as their bodies. Exercise won't make your child a genius, but it can lead to better academic and cognitive performance.
1. Jesper Fritz, Marcus Cöster, Nilsson, J-Å., Rosengren, B., Magnus Dencker & Magnus Karlsson, "The associations of physical activity with fracture risk-a 7-year prospective controlled intervention study in 3534 children." M 2016: Osteoporosis International: a journal established as a result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA. 27, 3, s. 915-922.