• Sterling Mader

The Connection between Physical Activity & Learning

While growing up, I always found that I worked better after doing something involving physical activity. Whether it be doing my homework after soccer practice, or finding that I pay closer attention in class after gym. But why? This is something that fascinated me all throughout high school and encouraged me to conduct some research, what I found is below.

Students, after participating in some sort of physical activity, see an improvement in their cognitive skills, learning skills, and grades during their classes. In a review done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 49.5% of the studies reviewed showed that physical activity caused an improvement in a child. In fact, “35 out of the 50 studies showed an improvement within the child’s academic ability” (Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2010). Additionally, 70% of the studies proved that physical education has a positive effect on one’s classroom performance. Furthermore, No study showed a negative correlation between physical activity and academic ability.

Some may argue that including physical education will result in less time to learn, however, in the study done by the CDC, there were “no differences in academic achievement… despite the fact that students… had less classroom teaching time” (CDC, 2010). These results conclude that the students were able to learn the same amount of material in a shorter time period due to the increased behaviour and increased brain activity caused by physical exercise. These results suggest that physical activity at minimum compensates the loss of class time to an improvement in one’s ability to learn. Not having a physical exercise component is hindering students from reaching their maximum learning capacity.

The CDC also found that of the 24 studies focusing solely on cognitive skills and attitude, “12 studies showed a positive result, while the other 12 showed no effect” (cdc, 2010). This means that when students received physical exercise their behaviour within the class setting improved 50% of the time. These results are very impressive as often students are not focused, and often out of control. When students are like this, it is difficult for them to learn, for others to learn, and for the teachers to teach effectively.

Now let’s take a look at this picture, pretty crazy right?

A research study done at the University of Illinois by Dr.Chuck Hillman showed how a mere twenty minutes of walking increases the neuroelectric activity in the brain. The MRI scans of the average brain before and after a 20 minute walk. So what does this mean? In short, while learning, your brain is sending this increased activity, which leads to quicker learning.

So how does all of this relate to Active Scholars? Well at Active Scholars, the kids go from physical activity to STEM activities. These activities range from computer coding, to building circuits, to playing with robots. Everything written above proves why doing physical exercise prior to learning helps children out so much, which is why in my opinion Active Scholars offers a great opportunity to maximize learning and fun for the children and teachers.

Written by, Sterling Mader, a student at the University of Ottawa studying Statistics, also with extensive experience playing and coaching soccer. Sterling will be our lead soccer instructor and will also assist with STEM learning during alternating weeks this summer at the Ajax location for Active Scholars.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The association between school based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.

Hillman, C. H., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., Castelli, D. M., Hall, E. E., & Kramer, A. F. (2009). The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 159(3), 1044–1054. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.01.057





  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon