Study: More Active Teens Get Higher Test Scores

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The road to honor roll may include time spent in the gym as well as the classroom.

Researchers from the UK looked at 5,000 11-year-old kids participating in the Children of the 90s study born between 1991 and 1992. They measured how long the kids participated in daily physical activity over three to seven days and documented how intensely the students exercised using an accelerometer. On average, the boys spent about 29 minutes a day doing moderate to vigorous exercise while girls spent 18 minutes . That was far below the recommended 60 minutes for children of this age.

The research team then compared the students’ activity levels with their academic performance in English, math and science. Reporting in the BMJ, the scientists say that more moderate to vigorous physical activity a child had, the higher they scored on their tests. This was especially true for girls and their science scores.

Even more encouraging, the effects seemed to be lasting. A child’s physical activity at age 11 continued to be linked to how she performed academically at age 13. And at age 15 and 16, for every 17 minutes a day a boy exercised, he enjoyed a boost in his scores while 11 year old girls saw a benefit in their scores for every 12 minutes a day they exercised. As the girls grew older, the link between more exercise and better science performance continued to be strong.

Becoming physically active isn’t a guarantee of higher test scores, but the findings support the need for regular exercise during school hours — and suggests that not all habits that boost academic performance start in the classroom.