Physical Activity

Physical Activity and Sport Boosts Academic Performance of Children

Mercia Van der Walt/ Physical Educator
04 November, 2018

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Healthy Students are better learners

There is no argument that that physical activity is good for kids. We all know that it helps develop muscles, maintains a healthy weight, and offers opportunities to discover the world, by socializing and developing new skills. Physical activity and sport are promoted for their positive impact on children’s physical and mental health.

In research there is consistent findings that physically active kids do better at school. According to a recent report from the National Academy of Medicine in the United States, children who are more active show greater concentration, perform better and have faster cognitive processing speed than children who are less active. Furthermore, numerous international studies published in this field have shown a positive association between physical activity and academic performance.


Less Academic time vs More Physical activity time

Academic performance are influenced by factors such as parental involvement, and socio economic status, however increased participation in sport and other forms of physical activity lead to enhancements of cognitive functioning, memory, concentration, behavior and academic achievement.

Schools however are pressured to ensure children achieve academic success and therefore reduce time spent in physical education and sport classes and cut down on recess to make way for more sedentary class time. In this regard researches have raised their concern in the decline of time spent on physical activity in schools as this may be detrimental to their physical and mental health and negatively impact school grades. 

It is found that increasing physical activity and reducing academic sedentary learning during the school day has a positive impact on learning.


How can Physical activity improve academic Performance?

Physical activity can have long term and immediate benefits.

  • Immediately after engaging in PA children can concentrate on classroom tasks which enhances learning.
  • Regular participation and higher level of physical fitness improve performance and brain functions such as attention and memory. They tend to remain focused and stay on task
  • Improvement of cognitive control
  • Even signal sessions of PA have been associated with better scores in tests
  • Physiological effects of PA on the brain boosts learning. Exercise increases level of brain growth, stimulates nerve growth and development in the brain and bouts of exercise increase blood flow to the brain.



Higher participation in Physical Activity is the key.

 According to the physical activity guidelines school aged children should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day. As mentioned PA increases brain volume and activity which is associated with memory and learning. In addition physical activities cultivates team work, builds confidence and the ability to co-operate with different people. 


  • Schools can support by:

Schools could offer opportunities to increase children’s physical activity levels, but this however calls for creativity, flexibility as well as commitment from school administration, teachers, parents and decision – makers.  This could include the following:

  • Increasing amount of well-structured Physical education classes
  • Physical activities in class room
  • Time to move, built in school time table every day
  • Physical activities outside of classroom. ( Before school, during recess and after school)
  • School support by running sports programs afterschool




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