Exercise is Key to Academic Success

It’s the time of year when millions of kids are back in school and their parents once again are fretting over how best to keep their kids’ grades up. Turns out, there’s one simple trick that is almost certain to help: exercise.

Yes, exercise is key to academic success. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), kids who get a steady diet of vigorous exercise are twice as likely to get As as their more sedentary counterparts (we’re talking As and Bs vs Ds and Fs).

How much exercise? The CDC recommends at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to intense exercise, which can include biking, walking, running, dancing, basketball, soccer, etc. We’ve touched on the myriad benefits of regular exercise and participation in youth sports before, and the CDC’s is just the latest voice to confirm that active kids are better academic performers.

Student athlete performanceYet despite the avalanche of such studies and recommendations, parents, kids, and schools are still headed in the wrong direction. Childhood obesity rates are at epidemic levels, schools are cutting rather than expanding physical education, the participation levels in youth sports continue to fall, and parents are more likely to press their kids to try harder academically (or enlist the aid of tutors) than to simply send their kids outside to play.

Indeed, the CDC paints some grim statistics:

  • During 2013, 77% of kids aged 9-13 reported participating in free-time physical activity during the previous week.
  • By high school, however, just 36.6% of male students admitted getting at least 60 minutes of daily exercise. That number plummets to just 17.7% for girls.
  • Incredibly, participation in school physical education classes was similarly poor, with 34.9% of boys and only 24% of girls taking part.
  • In 1969, 41% of kids walked or biked to school; by 2001 that figure dropped to just 13%

Why the positive correlation between the physical and mental? For starters, it’s long been known that physical activity improves memory, powers of concentration, and even classroom behavior (you might say the kids get a lot of energy out of their systems, making them more apt to sit still and focus).

Active kids also are less likely to suffer from obesity and its deleterious effects (e.g. diabetes, etc.). Exercise also is a terrific antidote to feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental challenges that can plague young minds.

So if you want your child to get good grades, don’t just think academics. Remember, exercise goes a long way in determining your child’s academic success.


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