Sporty pupils race ahead in school exams
Children who get more exercise tend to do better in school, according to a new study.
The findings, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, come as US schools in general cut physical activity time in favour of more academic test preparation.
Amika Singh, who worked on the study, said the findings meant that schools should prioritise both academics and exercise -- and that families could have the same attitude at home.
"Maybe it's an activity break, stand up every half an hour in class and do something," said Ms Singh, from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam.
"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."
Ms Singh and her colleagues reviewed 14 studies that compared children's physical activity with their grades or scores on math, language and general thinking and memory tests.
One group of children was given extra time for physical education classes and other health and fitness exercises, and their test scores were later compared against a group of kids who didn't get extra exercise.
When researchers asked students how much time they spent exercising, they found that those with higher rates of physical activity did better in the classroom.
Three of the four studies involving an exercise intervention found that students given more exercise time scored higher on measures of academic performance.
In one report from the United States, second and third- graders who got an extra 90 minutes of physical activity a week did better on a test of spelling, reading and maths, along with gaining less weight over the next three years.
That may be because children are better behaved and can concentrate better when they get enough exercise, or because physical activity improves blood flow to the brain and boosts mood, the researchers wrote.
"There's obviously the long-term links between physical activity and health," said health expert Sandy Slater.