60-Second Health

Hit the Gym to Help Hit the Books

A meta-analysis finds that keeping kids active also boosts their academic performances. Katherine Harmon reports

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And a worse student. Regular exercise—whether in gym class or less formally in a local park—has been shown to improve kids' mood and short-term focusing abilities. Now a new systematic analysis of numerous studies finds that keeping kids active also boosts their academic performance. The paper is in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. [Amika Singh et al., "Physical Activity and Performance at School: A Systematic Review of the Literature Including a Methodological Quality Assessment"]

Previous research has suggested that exercise’s educational boost might come from extra blood and oxygen in the brain, more mood-lifting hormones or an increase in growth factors that build nerve cells.

This confirmation comes at a time when school budget cuts are squeezing out so-called electives, such as PE classes. But the analysis suggests that even if kids from kindergarten to high school have less time in formal classes, such as math or social studies, they can do just as well as kids who have had more time to hit the books—if they've also had time to be active. So when it comes to budgeting for physical education in schools, administrators should consider doing the math.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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