Physical Activity Improves Academic Performance: Recess Gets Gold Star


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Physical education is an important part of learning. Photo by zeafonso

Academic Achievement and Activity… Continued

Physical Fitness for Kids: What can Schools and Teachers Do?

Children spend about eight hours of their day at school, five days a week which makes schools and teachers important roles models for children. Schools and teachers have the potential to teach about healthy eating and the importance of physical activity.

Decoded Science asked Dr. Singh what message the researchers would like to convey to schools and teachers.

“The same as for parents applies to the teachers and schools – we cannot draw any conclusions based on our study results. However, also schools/teachers might be interested in the message (see above): being physically active might play a beneficial role when it comes to the academic performance of the children they teach. 

This does not necessarily mean that children must have an additional hour of physical every day to increase their academic performance. An improvement of academic performance might also be achieved by other ways of increasing physical activity, for example activity breaks during the lessons. 

Also, physical activity is more than being physically active during physical education at school. Home environmental physical activity is an important thing, for example being a member of a sports club. Since not all parents can afford this, the role of schools providing physical activity opportunities is more important for children from a lower socio-economic background.”

Despite the importance of exercise for the child’s physical health; many schools are doing away with physical education classes and recess time. Decoded Science asked Dr. Singh what message they would send to schools that are reducing or eliminating physical education and recess time.

“Our findings should be considered in the discussions (that are ongoing in many countries) on the replacement/cut back of physical education lessons. These discussions are often held under the increasing pressure to improve academic scores. An often heard solution is additional instructional time for subjects such as mathematics and language at the cost of time for being physically active. Until now, there have been some studies/reviews concluding that more time spent on physical education does not negatively affect academic performance. Our study results might suggest that there is a beneficial effect of physical activity on academic performance in children.”

Academic Performance Improved by Activity

The study concluded that further research is needed to determine exactly how much physical activity is needed to improve test scores, but physical activity provides no negative effects on academic performance. Parents can help children be physically active by being positive roles models, making physical activity apart of the family’s daily activities, and enrolling children in activities that the kids enjoy.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do children need? (2011). Accessed January 1, 2012.

Singh, A., Uijtdewilligen, L., Twisk, J., Mechelen, W., Chinapaw, M.  Physical Activity and Performance at School: A systematic review of literature including a methodological quality assessment. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2012;166[1]:49:55. Accessed January 2, 2012.

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