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Physical activity, academic performance may be positively related: study

(Xinhua)

13:45, January 03, 2012

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- A systematic review of previous studies suggests that there may be a positive connection between physical activity and children's academic performance, according to a report published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

A group of scientists at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) Medical Center in the Netherlands reviewed evidence on the relationship between physical activity and academic performance because of concerns that pressure to improve test scores may often mean more instructional time for classroom subjects with less time for physical activity.

The authors identified 10 observational and four interventional studies for review, 12 of which were done in the United States, one in Canada and one in South Africa. Sample sizes ranged from 53 to about 12,000 participants between the ages of eight years and 18 years old. Follow-up varied from eight weeks to more than five years.

"According to the best-evidence synthesis, we found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance. The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children," the report said.

Background information in the article suggests that exercise may help cognition by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, increasing levels of norepinephrine and endorphin to decrease stress and improve mood, and increasing growth factors that help create new nerve cells and support synaptic plasticity.

"More high-quality studies are needed on the dose-response relationship between physical activity and academic performance and on the explanatory mechanisms, using reliable and valid measurement instruments to assess this relationship accurately," the report concluded.

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