Exercise 'boosts academic performance' of teenagers

Pupils taking part in yoga class Those who did the most exercise did better academically according to the research

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Intensive exercise improves the academic performance of teenagers, according to new research.

The study, of about 5,000 children, found links between exercise and exam success in English, maths and science.

It found an increase in performance for every extra 17 minutes boys exercised, and 12 minutes for girls.

The study by the universities of Strathclyde and Dundee found physical activity particularly benefited girls' performance at science.

The authors said this could be a chance finding or reflect gender differences in the impact of physical activity on the brain.

Children who carried out regular exercise, not only did better academically at 11 but also at 13 and in their exams at 16, the study suggested.

'Low exercise levels'

Most of the teenagers' exercise levels were found to be well below the recommended 60 minutes a day.

The authors speculated what might happen to academic performance if children got the recommended amount.

They claimed that since every 15 minutes of exercise improved performance by an average of about a quarter of a grade, it was possible children who carried out 60 minutes of exercise every day could improve their academic performance by a full grade - for example, from a C to a B, or a B to an A.

However, the authors admitted this was speculation given that very few children did anywhere near this amount of exercise.

Dr Josie Booth, one of the leaders of the study, from Dundee University said: "Physical activity is more than just important for your physical health.

"There are other benefits and that is something that should be especially important to parents, policy-makers and people involved in education."

The authors of the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, said further research backing the findings could have implications fore public health and education policy.

The study was funded by a grant from the BUPA Foundation to the University of Strathclyde.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    From my experience, most top students don't like PE/sport/exercise at all, whilst the less intelligent students do more sport. Also, sport/exercise does not help education if you do so much of it that you don't bother to study at all, like the foolish people who think school/college/uni is an opportunity for extreme idiocy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Perhaps intelligent teenagers are just more likely to Exercise.

    That doesn't mean the exercise is 'making' them intelligent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    I was frightened to play hockey at school. Girls were always getting hit in the face with hockey sticks and flying hard balls. The black eyes and broken noses were enough to put lots of us off, so we all tried not to be chosen for the team. If only there had been non violent sports on offer, like dance. And indoor stuff so we didn't freeze in winter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    And that is why funding school sports for all schools is so important.
    After a long battle the government re-instated funding for sports at schools at a lower rate and after doing serious damage to the existing structures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    There is alot of scientific evidence that indicates being physically healthy supports improved brain function. However, this example is either bad science or bad journalism becuase there is no mention of the study controlling for things like socio-economic grouping. It also makes the schoolboy-error of equating correlation with causation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I'll back this right up. I trained for a marathon through my final year at university and found that not only did the training stop me from getting too stressed out, but my concentration when I came to study was much better too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I knew plenty of people at school who did zero exercise and were academically excellent , and visa versa . Exercise is not a game changer for exam results ,neither is eating fish and nuts .A study like this to influence policy ? , we've known the positive effects of exercise for years , so when will schools act.


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