Physical activity improves school performance

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The Australian Department of Health suggests that children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise or physical activity each dayiii. This activity can range from playing a team sport to going for a family bike ride or a swim at the local pool. Physical activity helps children develop their motor skills and may improve physical and psychological wellbeingiii.

Regular physical activity can help your child perform better in school.

Regular physical activity has also been shown to improve academic performance. Joint research between the University of Canberra and the Australian National University in 2012 found that primary school students who keep physically active are more likely to have higher National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test scoresiv,v. In recent years, as a result of the publication of NAPLAN outcomes, schools have increased their focus on literacy and numeracy at the price of physical education (PE)iii,vi. The Department of Health acknowledges that while parents play a major role in ensuring that their children receive adequate exercise, schools offer an ideal venue for encouraging and facilitating physical activityiii.

Healthy mind, healthy body

Another Australian National University study shows that children who are taught by a specialist PE teacher are likely to have higher NAPLAN test scores than students who are taught PE by regular classroom teachersiv,vii. Australian primary school students are estimated to receive 150 minutes of PE per week but many schools do not have specialist PE teachersiv. Specialist teachers tend to spend more time on fitness-related activities than classroom teachers, particularly those involving hand-eye coordination, which have been shown to improve children's brain functioniv.

Apart from the academic benefits, active children are also likely to have higher school attendance records and improved concentration levels during class time.

Benefits inside and outside the classroom

Active children may have higher school attendance records and improved concentration levels during class timeviii. They are also less likely to misbehave in class and disrupt other students' learningviii.

Research into childhood obesity in Australia has shown that 25.7 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 were overweight or obese in 2011-12ix. Exercise can also help reduce a child's risk of becoming obese and developing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.

Ensuring your child has a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and good nutrition can both reduce their risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease and can also improve their grades.

iABC Online 2014, Australian children among least active in the world, report finds, viewed 4 December 2014,

iiMedical Xpress 2014, More physical activity improved school performance, viewed 4 December 2014,

iiiAchterstraat, P 2012, Physical Activity in Government Primary Schools, viewed 4 December 2014,

ivMilburn, C 2011, 'Exercise linked to higher test scores', Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October, viewed 4 December 2014,

vTelford, R.D, Cunningham, R.B, Telford, R.M and Abhayaratna, W.P 2012, 'Schools With Fitter Children Achieve Better Literacy and Numeracy Results: Evidence of a School Cultural Effect', Pediatric Exercise Science, vol. 24, viewed 10 December 2014,

viMartin, K 2010, Brain boost: Sport and physical activity enhance children's learning, viewed 4 December 2014,

viiTelford, R.D, Cunningham, R.B, Fitzgerald, R, Olive, L.S, Prosser, L, Jiang, X and Telford, R.M 2012, 'Physical Education, Obesity, and Academic Achievement: A 2-Year Longitudinal Investigation of Australian Elementary School Children', American Journal of Public Health, vol. 102, no. 2, viewed 10 December 2014,

viiiTrost, S 2009, Active Education: Physical Education, Physical Activity and Academic Performance, viewed 4 December 2014,

ixBetter Health Channel 2014, Obesity, viewed 4 December 2014,