A new study from the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee (published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine) suggests that intensive exercise boosts the academic performance of teenagers. The study of 5,000 youngsters found that exercise was linked to higher exam grades in English, Mathematics and Science. For boys a daily exercise of 17 minutes registered an academic improvement, and for girls it was 12 minutes. The improvement averaged about a quarter of a grade for each 15 minutes of activity. The effect was noticeable at 11 years old, at 13 and in the exams taken at 16 years old. Girls in particular showed improvement in science correlated with physical activity. The authors suggest that a full 60 minutes of daily exercise could conceivably boost performance by a full grade, though they admitted that since very few children actually did this amount, they were projecting from very small numbers.
It sounds plausible, especially since other studies link regular exercise with mental as well as physical well-being in adults. It seems sensible to do regular exercise if you can. I do about 35 minutes in the gym pretty well every morning unless I’m traveling. The fact that it’s a routine makes it easier. It’s my way of starting the day. Since I’m unlikely to take many more exams, I can’t really assess whether it improves my academic performance, though I certainly feel more mentally alert as a result. My caveat over the report is that there does not appear to have been a control group. The correlation between the exercisers and the achievers might possibly therefore result from higher levels of motivation rather than from the effects of exercise on performance. It could conceivably be character we are looking at rather than stimulus.
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