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Physical Activity Predicts Academic Achievement

physical activity
Photo Credit: Health Xchange

Some time back, we wrote about the importance of sports and physical activity for brain development and academic performance. Recently, we reviewed a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine – that was published after our previous article – which reinforces this fact.

In light of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles in the age of the Internet, I thought it serves as a healthy reminder to us to continue to encourage our children to keep up their physical activity levels. Even Tiger Parents will approve this one because the study supports the findings that children who were more physically active performed better in standardized tests for Math, Science and English compared to those who received less physical activity a day. So if top academic results are your motivation, don’t cut the sports.

Physical Activity Predicts Academic Achievement in Adolescents

Overview of the study:

  • 4755 subjects aged 11 were followed longitudinally up to age 16.
  • recorded physical activity levels and results from Nationally administered school assessments in English, Math and Science.
  • the percentage of time spend in moderate to vigorous physical activity predicted increased performance in English, Math and Science test scores.
  • results suggest a long-term positive impact of moderate to vigorous physical activity on academic achievement in adolescent children.
  • results were adjusted to take various factors into account that could affect school performance, such as birth weight and current weight, the socioeconomic situation at home, and whether the mother smoked while pregnant.

Source: Booth JN, Leary SD, Joinson C, et al. Associations between objectively measured physical activity and academic attainment in adolescents from a UK cohort. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:265–270.

How Much Physical Activity?

If physical activity is good for academic achievement, then how much of it are we looking at? In the study above, they found, on average:

  • 11 year old boys spent 29 minutes a day engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • 11 year old girls spent 18 minutes a day engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Given the fact that the study found evidence for a dose-response effect of physical activity on academic achievement, it would suggest that more physical activity is better. But how much more? General recommendations across the board (WHO, CDC, AHA, etc.) is at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.

Physical activity predicts academic achievement

Are your children getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day? Looks like we’ll have to up the ante as well…


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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