Young kids should be active to do well in school

Harold Mandel's picture
Young children and active health

Researchers have found that a lifestyle which is sedentary may undermine academic performance in boys.

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There has been a growing awareness of the link between sedentary lifestyles and the obesity epidemic in kids. This has been associated with a catastrophic rise in rates of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and emotional problems. Now there is also a growing awareness of the negative effects of sedentary lifestyles in kids on their intellectual development.

Academic performance in boys may be undermined by sedentary lifestyles

The University of Eastern Finland reports researchers have observed that academic performance in boys may be undermined by sedentary lifestyles. According to a new study in Finland in 6-8 year old boys there is an association between a sedentary lifestyle and poorer reading skills during the first three school years.

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Eero Haapala, PhD, who is associated with the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä, says there was an association found between better reading skills among boys in grades 1-3 with low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. It was also observed the boys who had both low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the lowest reading skills in grades 1–3.

This study was a part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study which was done at the University of Eastern Finland and part of the First Steps Study which was done at the University of Jyväskylä. It was observed in the study that low levels of time spent being sedentary, increased levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and in particular a combination of these in grade 1 were associated with better reading skills for boys in grades 1-3.

Lowering sedentary time and increasing physical activity may nurture better academic performance for boys

Better arithmetic skills for boys in grade 1 were also found to be associated with low levels of time spent being sedentary and high levels of physical activity. It has been suggested by this study that low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and increased levels of sedentary time may be particularly harmful for the development of academic skills in boys. Lowering sedentary time and increasing physical activity and particularly a combination of these may nurture better academic performance for boys. Surprisingly these same associations were not seen in girls.

This study has been published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. In boys there has been an association found between high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary time, and better performance in school. Paradoxically in girls increased levels of sedentary time were associated with better arithmetic skills. It appears that promoting a physically active lifestyle may give a boost to school performance of boys. In consideration that staying active is important for a myriad of health parameters in boys and girls it would seem wise to investigate the associations between physical activity and school performance further in girls.

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