Combining exercise with school lessons could boost brain power

Physical education classes may be scarce in some schools, but an activity program combined with school lessons could boost academic performance, a study finds.

Research presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Denver looked at the effects of a 40-minute-a-day, five-day-a-week physical activity program on test scores of first- through sixth-graders at a public school. This program was a little different from most, since it incorporated academic lessons along with exercise.

For example, younger children hopped through ladders while naming colors found on each rung. Older children climbed on a rock wall outfitted with numbers that challenged their math skills. The students normally spent 40 minutes a week in PE class.

Students took standardized reading tests in the fall, which were compared with scores taken the following spring. In the fall, the students also received tailored goals to reach on the spring test. The students who reached their goals on state tests went from 55% before the program started to 68.5% after it began.

“These data indicate that when carefully designed physical education programs are put into place, children’s academic achievement does not suffer,” said study co-author Dr. Kathryn King in a news release.