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The Connection between Physical Activity & Learning

June 4, 2019

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.