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How Does Physical Activity Impact Academic Performance and Behavior?

In Behavior Strategies, Children's Health, Counselors, Educational Strategies & Tips, Educators, Free Advice, Social-Emotional, Special Education by Rachel Wise

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Recently, one of our readers asked us this question: How does physical activity impact academic performance and behavior. We wanted to know too so we looked it up! Here is what the research says…

The Impact of Physical Activity on Academic Performance and Behavior

The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) analyzed 26 individual studies in December 2017, which all examined the impact of physical activity on academic performance and/or classroom behavior.

the impact of physical activity on academic performance and behavivor

Results indicated that if schools increase students’ physical activity, they can significantly improve academic achievement and classroom behavior.

According to the analysis, although some parents and teachers see additional physical activity as a waste of time, it is actually “an effective strategy to improve academic performance and behaviors.”

Although this analysis specifically focuses on the school’s role in increasing physical activity, parents are also encouraged to make regular fitness a part of their child’s schedule and weekly expectations.

How Can We Incorporate More Physical Activity Into the School Day?

Methods for incorporating more exercise into the school day as outlined in the 26 studies analyzed include:

  • increasing the amount of time spent in physical education class
  • qualitatively enriching physical education through the implementation of structured activities (e.g., running, soccer, push ups, etc.)
  • adding classroom-based physical activity during daily lessons (integrating physical activities into lessons)
  • extracurricular physical activities (e.g., sports) offered outside of traditional school hours
  • offering physical activities (e.g., individual, cooperative or competitive sports) while students are at recess or attending after-school programs
What is the best way to increase physical activity for students?

According to the APA’s analysis of 26 studies, increasing the time spent on physical education and enriching the physical educational curriculum, appears to be the most effective way to utilize physical activity to improve children’s academic achievement and behavior.

Related Article: 5 Ways that Physical Education is As Important as School Work

However, it is also important to note that studies find that incorporating multi-sensory/hands-on instruction leads to significant improvements as well. Multi-sensory instruction includes movement or hands-on activities – often known as a kenisthetic approach to learning.

See a sample video below of a math lesson with integrated movement.

Administrators and educators, and parents homeschooling, can put research into practice. They can improve students’ academic performance and behavior by increasing or enriching physical education and integrating physical activity into lessons.

Further research is needed to support which type of exercise intervention is best, along with the most efficient way to implement the interventions.

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Video Presentation of “How Does Physical Activity Impact Academic Performance and Behavior?”

Education and Behavior is a free research-based online library to support children in the areas of academics, behavior, and social-emotional development. Our goal is to keep parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists on the same page with effective strategies to work for children!

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