Can Physical Activity Boost Academic Success?

For many children, this week marks the last full week of summer vacation. As parents stock up on notebooks, pencils, calculators, and a myriad of other supplies to prepare their kids for a successful school year, one key to academic success is often overlooked. According to the CDC, “students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance (e.g., memory), and classroom behaviors (e.g., on-task behavior).” Incorporating physical activity (PA) into your child’s daily routine is one of the best steps you can take to prepare them for a successful school year.

The CDC recommends that children participate in 60 minutes of physical activity per day. This figure may sound daunting, but there are many ways to help kids be more active. Walking or biking to school provides a heart-pumping energy boost to start the day. You can also reach out to teachers and school officials and encourage them to include activity/stretch breaks for students throughout the day. Studies have shown that five minutes of activity can improve a child’s focus and concentration in the classroom. This is especially important given the shrinking amount of time devoted to PE during the school week.

After school hours provide a great opportunity for kids to be active. Interscholastic or recreational sports leagues, after school programs, or (possibly best of all) unstructured free play are good options for meeting PA guidelines. The key to ensuring that kids will continue to pursue PA on a daily basis is to focus on fun. No one wants to run laps around the school gym. But if a teammate or friend challenges you to a foot race, chances are you’ll both be smiling and laughing as you cross the finish line.

As you look at ways to help kids become more physically active, don’t forget to look at your own routine. Children seek role-models to provide insight into how they should behave. As parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, friends, and family, we need to be aware of how our actions influence younger generations. Adding physical activity into our own routines will show the children in our lives that PA is valuable and should be embraced. You can take this one step further by creating opportunities for the entire family to get moving and be active together, such as going for a hike or playing catch.

Whether it’s lacrosse, dance, gymnastics, karate, or being the jump rope champion of the neighborhood, your child’s favorite form of PA will be sure to set them up for a successful school year. Play On!


For further reading:

CDC – Physical Activity Before and After School

Participaction – Why 60 Minutes of Physical Activity Should be Mandatory in Schools

Time – The Reason for Recess