exerciseA study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that long-term academic performance in teenagers improved when they got moderate to vigorous daily exercise.  The researchers followed 5,000 adolescents over a 5-year period and tested their performance in English, math, and science.  Michelle Castillo drills down:

When factors that could affect academic performance including birth weight, mother’s age at delivery and other socioeconomic factors were adjusted for, the results showed that the more children participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity, the higher their test scores were at age 11 in all three subjects. For girls, science scores were most strongly linked to exercise.

When they followed up with the kids at age 13, their academic scores were still linked to how much they exercised when they were 11 years old.

By the time the kids took the GCSE exam [age 15-16 in the U.K.], each 17 minute per day increase in physical activity for the boys was linked to an improvement in their score. Every additional 12 minutes a day increase in exercise for the girls was linked to an increased score as well, especially in the science category.


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preteens and teenagers get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, with an emphasis on aerobic activities.  The results of this and other studies suggest that many kids are not getting nearly enough daily physical activity.  Not only their health, but their academic performance, may be suffering.

Children model themselves mostly from their parents, so that very active children generally have very active parents, and sedentary children generally have sedentary parents.  Telling your kids to be more active isn’t going to work.  Showing them how it’s done will probably have better results!