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Can Gym Class Make You Smarter?

Can Gym Class Make You Smarter?

Most people usually don’t think of the kids who excel in gym class to also have an academic advantage, but a small study conducted in Sweden suggests that physical activity in childhood increases learning ability. The positive effects of increased physical activity were still evident nine years later.

Swedish researchers studied 200 schoolchildren over nine years, beginning in grades one through three. The children were divided into two groups, one of which received physical education classes five days a week plus extra motor skills training, while the other group participated in the standard levels of physical education, about two to three times a week.

The results of the study show a clear correlation between physical activity in childhood and grades later on in life, especially for boys. 96 percent of the boys who participated in the elevated levels of physical activity “achieved grades that made them eligible to advance to upper-secondary school, compared with 89 percent of students in the control group” (US News).

Despite this evidence, in the U.S., most states don’t require kids to participate in gym class daily.

Educating the whole child

This study ties in with other evidence that strength in multiple areas of life is better for kids than narrowly focusing on one subject or activity. The widely-reported evidence that students who play musical instruments are better at math is another one.

Clearly, kids need to receive a well-rounded education that includes academics, arts, and physical activity — and they need to have these experiences all the way up through high school, not just in early elementary school. So why is our education system increasingly focused on test preparation and memorization of facts?

It is my hope that continuing research into the effects of the benefit of physical education, arts, and other non-traditional academic activities will eventually turn our education system back to what should be its primary goal — educating and nurturing the whole child.

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Photo credit: Jose Kevo

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3:01PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

I believe it! physical exercise makes me feel better, makes me more attentive and alert, and makes me feel fresh and ready for anything.

2:58PM PDT on May 31, 2012


8:03AM PDT on May 31, 2012

I Agree...!

6:05AM PDT on May 31, 2012


10:09PM PDT on May 30, 2012

The article is probably fine... for Sweden.
The masochist who designed the US counterpart have to be brought up on charges of terrorism and how to get students scared out if their mind.

7:15PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Anna (author), you present a wonderful article, and as may studies have shown, a true one. However, your opening sentence is VERY misleading. You say, "Most people usually don’t think of the kids who excel in gym class to also have an academic advantage"...

It has nothing to do so "excelling' in gym class; as you later correctly point out, it is the physical activity. Please don't promote the idea that, unless a kid is "the best" or at least, "superb" in his/her physical activity, he/she will be a failure in the classroom. I know that was not the intent of the article, but that first sentence...

In any case, thank you for an otherwise great article.

3:31PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Thank you for the article...

2:38PM PDT on May 30, 2012

To quote the Romans: "Sound body, sound mind."

12:13PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Yeah, skip the school subjects that really matter such as English and Math so you can focus on landing that 4 million contract with NFL, NBA, PGA etc... Pink Floyd's ... "Hey ... we don't need no education"... yada, yada, yada

Care2 ... your uploader or spell checker does not work well. Often, it seems to change the spelling of words at times of uploading.

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12:10PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Yea, skip the school subject that really matter such as English and Math so you can focus on landing that 4 million contract with NFL, NBA, PGA etc... Pink Floyd's ... "Hey ... we don't need no education"... yada, yada, yada ...

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