Does Increasing Physical Activity in School Lead to Improvements in Academic Achievement and Behavior?

In Behavior Strategies, Children's Health, Counselors, Educational Strategies & Tips, Educators, Free Advice, Social-Emotional, Special Education by Rachel Wise

Recently, one of our readers asked about the effects of physical activity on academic performance. Here is what the research says…

The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) analyzed 26 individual studies in December 2017, which all examined the impact of physical activity on academic performance and/or classroom behavior.

Results indicated that if schools increase students’ physical activity, they can significantly improve academic achievement and classroom behavior. According to the analysis, although some parents and teachers see additional physical activity as a waste of time, it is actually “an effective strategy to improve academic performance and behaviors.” Although this analysis specifically focuses on the school’s role in increasing physical activity, parents are also encouraged to make regular fitness a part of their child’s schedule and weekly expectations.

Methods for incorporating more exercise into the school day as outlined in the 26 studies analyzed include:

  • increasing the amount of time spent in physical education class
  • qualitatively enriching physical education through the implementation of structured activities (e.g., running, soccer, push ups, etc.)
  • adding classroom-based physical activity during daily lessons (integrating physical activities into lessons)
  • extracurricular physical activities (e.g., sports) offered outside of traditional school hours

“Brain Breaks Sample”
  • offering physical activities (e.g., individual, cooperative or competitive sports) while students are at recess or attending after-school programs

According to the APA’s analysis of 26 studies, increasing the time spent on physical education and enriching the physical educational curriculum, appears to be the most effective way to utilize physical activity to improve children’s academic achievement and behavior.

Related Article: 5 Ways that Physical Education is As Important as School Work

However, it is also important to note that studies find that incorporating movement into mathematics lessons leads to a significant improvement in student’s math achievement.

See a sample video below of a math lesson with integrated movement.

Administrators and educators can put research into practice. They can improve students’ academic performance and behavior by increasing or enriching physical education in schools, and integrating physical activity into lessons.

Further research is needed to support which type of exercise intervention is best, along with most efficient way to implement the intervention.

Video Presentation of Article

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