Pushing aside physical education to focus on academic subjects, such as math or reading, could have a negative impact on achievement, according to new reseach which finds physically-active students do better academically.
Combining the results of previous studies from North America and South Africa - including more than 55,000 children, ages six to 18 - researchers at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam found a link between physical activity and progress in school.
"Based on the results of our study we can conclude that being physically active is beneficial for academic performance," says lead researcher Amika Singh, adding there may be a biological explanation for that. "There are, first, physiological explanations, like more blood flow, and so more oxygen to the brain. Being physically active means there are more hormones produced like endorphins, and endorphins make your stress level lower and your mood improved, which means you also perform better."
Also, for those getting exercise from organized sports, learning rules and how to follow them may improve classroom behavior and concentration.
Because of differences among the studies, Singh says it is not possible to say whether the amount or kind of activity affected the extent of academic improvement. But given the general finding - that physically active kids are more likely to do better academically - she says educators should take that into consideration before cutting fitness programs in schools.