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Students get better grades when a school?s physical-education program is raised to 40 minutes a day. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)
Students get better grades when a school?s physical-education program is raised to 40 minutes a day. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)

Daily gym class improves kids' grades Add to ...

Want to boost the academic performance of students? A new study provides even more evidence that increased physical activity may do the trick.

U.S. researchers found that students got better grades when a school’s physical-education program was raised to 40 minutes a day, five days a week, from just 40 minutes once a week.

“Being more physically fit means kids will probably do better in school,” said one of the authors of the study, Kathryn King of the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital. Earlier studies have certainly pointed to that conclusion, she noted.

For this study, the researchers selected an inner-city elementary school in Charleston, S.C., where students have usually scored well below the state’s average on standardized tests.

Several classrooms were converted into gyms for a special exercise program that combined physical activity with course curriculum. For instance, younger children crawled and hopped across the floor while learning to identify geometric shapes and colours. Older kids ran on treadmills as the local area’s geography was projected on a flat-screen TV.

The daily activity led to a significant improvement in the kids’ school work. The percentage of students reaching their target marks on state tests rose to 68.5 per cent after the program was introduced, from 55 per cent in the preceding academic year.

Dr. King isn’t sure why physical activity is linked to higher marks. Maybe students enjoy school more or simply feel more alert in class.

The researchers presented their results last weekend in Denver at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

Dr. King hopes the findings will help reverse what she sees as a disturbing trend in education. Many schools, she noted, have cut physical-education programs so students can spend more time in the classroom. She believes such efforts to improve test scores are misguided. After all, her study suggests that exercise is good for the mind as well as the body.

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