Moderate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance improvements over long term. Particularly noticeable for girls' science results.

Press/Media: Research

Description

Regular moderate to vigorous exercise improves teens' academic performance, and particularly seems to help girls do better in science, indicates research led by the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee.

The study, undertaken in collaboration with the Universities of Georgia and Bristol, shows a link between objectively measured physical activity and academic attainment in adolescents in the UK and has been published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The improvements were sustained over the long term, with the findings pointing to a dose-response effect the more intensive the exercise taken, the greater the impact on test results.

If confirmed by further research, this could have implications for public health and education policy, say the authors.

They base their findings on a representative sample of almost 5000 children who were all part of the 'Children of the 90s' study, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). This is tracking the long term health of around 14,000 children born in the UK between 1991 and 1992 in the South West of England.

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, worn on an elasticated belt.

The accelerometer showed that the average daily number of minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise the 11 year olds clocked up was 29 for boys and 18 for girls significantly less than the recommended 60 minutes.

The children's academic performance in English, maths, and science was then formally assessed at the ages of 11 (compulsory national test key stage 1), 13 (compulsory national test, key stage 2), and 15/16 (General Certificate of Secondary Education; GCSE; key stage 4).

Factors likely to influence academic attainment, such as birthweight, mother's age at delivery, oily fish intake and smoking during the pregnancy, whether the child had reached puberty, 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 GCSE 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.

Once again, girls' science results seemed to benefit the most. 'This is an important finding, especially in light of the current UK and European Commission policy aimed at increasing the number of females in science subjects,' comment the authors.

They add that this could, of course, be a chance finding, but suggest that the results may also reflect gender differences in the impact of physical activity on the brain.

Their findings prompt the authors to speculate on what might happen to academic performance if children increased the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity they did to the recommended 60 minutes.

'If moderate to vigorous physical activity does influence academic attainment this has implications for public health and education policy by providing schools and parents with a potentially important stake in meaningful and sustained increases in physical activity,' they conclude.

Authors of the study include Dr Josephine Booth, a Lecturer at the University of Dundee, and Professor John Reilly, a Researcher at Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences and Health.

This study was funded by a grant from the BUPA Foundation to the University of Strathclyde. ALSPAC receives core support from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the University of Bristol.

School of Psychology

Period22 Oct 2013

Media coverage

28

Media coverage

  • TitleRegular exercise improves children's academic results finds survey
    Media name/outletSTV
    Media typeTelevision
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletBBC Breakfast
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance
    Media name/outletRadio Tay
    Media typeRadio
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance
    Media name/outletWave 102 (radio)
    Media typeRadio
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletRadio 5 Live
    Media typeRadio
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance
    Media name/outletRadio LBC
    Media typeRadio
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletCBS Radio
    Media typeRadio
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens' academic performance
    Media name/outletRadio Clyde
    Media typeRadio
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleExercise 'boosts academic success'
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletBBC Health
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleFit children do better in tests
    Media name/outletOrmskirk Advertiser
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleKids who exercise more may get better grades
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletwww.philly.com
    Media typeWeb
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleBetter results linked to more exercise
    Media name/outletThe Courier
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleKeeping fit as you grow up helps academic success
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletThe Scotsman
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleExercise 'boosts school performance among teenagers'
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletBoots Web MD (internet)
    Media typeWeb
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleExercise can make teenagers brighter and improve their grades
    Media name/outletDaily Express
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleExercise helps with academic performance
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletThe Times
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleHow exercise can boost girls' grades in science
    Media name/outletDaily Mail
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleActive children more likely to be academic
    Media name/outletThe Herald
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleExercise could make kids smarter
    Media name/outletEvening Telegraph
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleDaily exercise could help boost pupils' grades
    Media name/outletDaily Telegraph
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleIntensive exercise improves academic performance of teenagers
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletTop News US (internet)
    Media typeWeb
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitlePhysical activity enhances academic performance of teenagers
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletTop News New Zealand (internet)
    Media typeWeb
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleFit children do better in tests
    Media name/outletDaventry Express
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleFit children do better in tests
    Media name/outletHarborough Mail
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleFit children do better in tests
    Media name/outletBuxton Advertiser
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleFit children do better in tests
    Media name/outletBelfast Telegraph
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleResearch reveals that kids who exercise are more likely to be better at academic tests
    Media name/outletDaily Record
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth
  • TitleModerate to vigorous exercise boosts teens academic performance
    Media name/outletHealth Canal (internet)
    Media typeWeb
    Date22/10/13
    PersonsJosie Booth