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Researchers analyzed 14 studies, ranging in size from as few as 50 participants to as many as 12,000.
All of the studies involved children between the ages of 6 and 18.
According to the authors:
“Physical activity and sports are generally promoted for their positive effect on children’s physical health; regular participation in physical activity in childhood is associated with a decreased cardiovascular risk in youth and adulthood.
There is also a growing body of literature suggesting that physical activity has beneficial effects on several mental health outcomes, including health-related quality of life and better mood states.
In addition… there is a strong belief that regular participation in physical activity is linked to enhancement of brain function and cognition, thereby positively influencing academic performance.
There are several hypothesized mechanisms for why exercise is beneficial for cognition, including:
(1) Increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain
(2) Increased levels of norepinephrine and endorphins resulting in a reduction of stress and an improvement of mood
(3) Increased growth factors that help to create new nerve cells and support synaptic plasticity
… The increasing pressures to improve academic scores often lead to additional instructional time for subjects such as mathematics and language at the cost of time for being physically active. Given the suggested relationship and the ongoing discussions on the replacement of physical education lessons by academic subjects, we aimed to review the evidence on the longitudinal relationship between these two variables…”