Dr. Marla Shapiro: Exercise boosts performance
A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that regular moderate to vigorous exercise improves teens' academic performance, and particularly seems to help girls do better in science.
The improvements were also noted to be sustained over the long term, with the findings pointing to a dose-response effect-the more intensive exercise was taken, the greater the impact on test results.
In this study almost 5,000 children taken from the original 14,000 are being tracked for long term health outcomes.
The duration and intensity of the children's daily physical activity levels were measured for periods of between three and seven days, when they were aged 11, using a device called an accelerometer.
The accelerometer showed that the average daily number of minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise the 11 year olds was a mere 29 for boys and 18 for girls-significantly less than the recommended 60 minutes daily.
The children's academic performance in English, maths, and science was then formally assessed at the ages of 11, 13, and 15/16.
Factors likely to influence academics, such as birthweight; mother's age at delivery; oily fish intake and smoking during the pregnancy; whether the child had reached puberty; current weight; and socioeconomic factors were fully adjusted for.
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 exam 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.
Again, girls' science results seemed to benefit the most.
Research shows that exercise will stimulate additional neurons to grow in the hippocampus of the brain . Outlined in a fascinating book called Spark, exercise prior to learning or testing is an effective way to optimize the functioning of the neurons in your brain.
These findings again reinforce why cutting exercise from school not only will impact physical health but academic intellectual health.