Academic performance of schoolchildren improves with regular physical activity

July 20, 2020
Academic performance of schoolchildren improves with regular physical activity

A recent study led by Japanese professors at the University of Tsukuba and Kobe University suggests that physical activity is linked to better cognitive ability in school-age children. “Previous studies looked at the issue (physical activity/cognition) too broadly – when we broke down the data, we were able to see that physical activity helps children the most if they start out with poor executive function,” said Professor Keita Kamijo, the University of Tsukuba.

The executive functions evaluated here refer to three types of cognitive skills. The first is the ability to suppress impulses or inhibit reflex-like habits. To assess this ability, children were asked to indicate the colour in which words like “red” and “blue” were displayed on a computer screen.

The second skill is the ability to hold information in working memory and process it. This was evaluated by testing how well children could remember strings of letters that vary in length. Finally, to test mental flexibility, the children were asked to frequently switch the rules for categorising coloured circles and squares from shape-based to colour-based.

This experimental data was analysedbefore and after several months of daily intervention with physical activity, such as aerobic activities, ball games, and playing tag. Surprisingly, the researchers found that cognitive skills, which have been shown to closely associate with academic performance, improved most in children whose skills were initially poor.

The researchers also noted that increased time spent doing regular physical activity did not negatively affect cognitive function in children who started out with better cognitive functions.

“We can say that daily physical activity is critical for school-aged children. Our findings can help educational institutions design appropriate systems for maximising the effects of physical activity and exercise,” concluded Professor Kamijo.


Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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