A recent study has found that while all children do better in overall school performance when they engage in physical activity, boys make notable gains in school when they become active.
The study was written by Eero Haapala, MSc, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kupio, and colleagues.
186 children in first through third grades were examined by the authors of the study. The different types of exercise the children did were studied. The researchers also examined their test scores and compared results.
All students completed a survey in first grade about both their activity levels and less active pastimes. The authors used standardized tests to assess reading and math skills at the end of each grade.
Children who reported walking or biking to school, especially boys, had better reading skills, the study authors found.
Children who took part in organized sports in first grade had better math skills in all grades.
The kids who had higher levels of physical activity at recess also did better in math and reading at school than children who were less active at recess.
Also, boys who spent their less active time reading or writing had higher reading skills than those who spent their leisure time doing other things.
However, the boys’ school success was most associated with being physically active.
Higher levels of both total quiet behavior, such as reading, and total physical activity did not improve school performance as much in girls, the study authors found. They suggested that boys and girls benefit differently from these pastimes in early years.
The authors said changes in school performance due to physical activity may be due to changes in the brain brought on by exercise or because students might put more effort into their schoolwork if they are allowed to play more.