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According to a recent study published in the British Journal of sports Medicine, regular moderate to vigorous exercise can improve teens’ academic performance.
The study tracked the physical activity of nearly 5,000 11-year olds using accelerometers. The duration and intensity of the children’s daily physical activity levels were measured for periods of between three and seven days.
The accelerometer showed that the average daily number of minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise the 11 year olds clocked up was 29 for boys and 18 for girls – significantly less than the recommended 60 minutes. The children’s academic performance in English, maths, and science was then formally assessed at the ages of 11, 13, and 15/16.
The analysis showed that at the age of 11, better academic performance across all three subjects was linked to the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity undertaken. Physical activity benefited girls’ performance in science, in particular.
Academic performance at the age of 13 was similarly linked to how much moderate to vigorous exercise pupils had had at the age of 11.
By the age of 15/16 results also showed a link to exercise, with an increase in performance for every additional 17 minutes/day (boys) and 12 minutes/day (girls) spent doing more intensive exercise at the age of 11.
Their findings prompt the authors to speculate on what might happen to academic performance if children increased the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity they did to the recommended 60 minutes.
“If moderate to vigorous physical activity does influence academic attainment this has implications for public health and education policy by providing schools and parents with a potentially important stake in meaningful and sustained increases in physical activity,” they conclude.