Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Exercise Boosts Kids’ Academic Performance

Children Who Are Active in Sports or Physical Education May Do Better in School, Research Suggests
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 3, 2012 -- Physical activity may help children exercise their brains as well as their bodies.

A new review suggests that children who are active in sports or physical activity perform better at school.

Researchers say physical activity may enhance children’s brain function and thinking skills by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, as well as triggering the release of feel-good hormones like endorphins.

“Besides these suggested physiological effects, regular participation in sports activities may improve children’s behavior in the classroom, increasing the odds of better concentration on the academic content of these lessons,” researcher Amika Singh, PhD, of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues write in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Exercise and Academics Linked

In the review, researchers looked at 14 studies on physical activity and academic performance in children between the ages of 6 and 18. Twelve of the studies were conducted in the U.S.

Analysis of these studies suggested strong evidence of a positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance.

In the review, only two of the studies met the researchers' standards for high-quality scientific research. Both of these studies best affirmed the link between physical activity and academic performance.

Despite growing evidence of a positive link between physical activity and academic performance, researchers say physical activity levels are declining at schools.

“The increasing pressures to improve academic scores often lead to additional instructional time for subjects such as mathematics and language at the cost of time for being physically active,” the researchers write.

Researchers say more high-quality studies are needed to further explain the link between physical activity and academic performance.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
boy on father's shoulder
Child with red rash on cheeks
girl thinking

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply