More Exercise May Improve Boys' School Performance

Physical activity improved school performance more in boys than in girls

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Young boys who bike or walk to school or play sports benefit in many ways. Not only are they more fit, but they may even do better in school, new research suggests.

While all children did better in school if they were active, the results were more notable among boys, the authors of a recent study found.

"Encourage your children to exercise daily."

Eero Haapala, MSc, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kupio, and colleagues wrote the study.

The study authors looked at 186 children in first through third grades. They studied the types of exercise the children did and their test scores.

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.

Jack Newman, CEO of Austin Tennis Academy in Texas, said being active helps kids with school.

“In training young male athletes at the Austin Tennis Academy, we have found that athletes who increase their training hours also improve their academic results,” he told dailyRx News. “Increased time management skills resulting from increased training helps young athletes improve their academic level.”

The study authors said more studies are needed to assess the relationship between exercise or quiet activities and school performance.

The study was published Sept. 10 in PLOS One.

A grant from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 12, 2014
Last Updated:
September 15, 2014