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Physical Activity During Lessons Can Boost Learning

Students who take part in physical exercises like running in place during school lessons do better in tests than students who stick to sedentary learning.

A meta-analysis of 42 studies around the world conducted by researchers at the University College London, Leiden University, the National University of Singapore, and the University of Sydney, aimed to assess the benefits of incorporating physical activity in academic lessons. This approach has been adopted by schools that want to increase activity levels among students without reducing academic teaching time.

Typical activities include using movement to signify whether a fact is true or false, or jumping on the spot a certain number of times to answer a math question, the researchers explained.

The study concluded that incorporating physical activity had a large, significant effect on educational outcomes during the lesson, assessed through tests or by observing pupils’ attention to a given task. It also had a smaller effect on overall educational outcomes, as well as increasing the students’ overall levels of physical activity.

“Physical activity is good for children’s health, and the biggest contributor of sedentary time in children’s lives is the seven or eight hours a day they spend in classrooms,” said lead author Dr. Emma Norris of University College London. “Our study shows that physically active lessons are a useful addition to the curriculum. They can create a memorable learning experience, helping children to learn more effectively.”

“These improvements in physical activity levels and educational outcomes are the result of quite basic physical exercises,” added co-author Dr. Tommy van Steen of Leiden University in The Netherlands. “Teachers can easily incorporate these physical active lessons in the existing curriculum to improve the learning experience of students.”

For the study, researchers looked at data from 12,663 students between the ages of three and 14. Nearly half of the studies took place in the United States, with seven conducted in Australia, five in the UK, four in the Netherlands, and one in China, Croatia, Ireland, Israel, Portugal, and Sweden.

In one of the 42 studies analyzed, eight- and nine-year-olds simulated traveling the world by running in place in between answering questions relating to different countries.

The research team, also led by Norris at UCL, concluded that the children were more active and more focused on the task than peers in a control group, following teachers’ instructions more closely.

In another study in the Netherlands, primary school children who took part in physically active lessons three times a week over two years made significantly better progress in spelling and mathematics than their peers, equating to four months of extra learning gains, according to researchers.

The  study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Source: University College London

Physical Activity During Lessons Can Boost Learning

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). Physical Activity During Lessons Can Boost Learning. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 12, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2019/10/19/physical-activity-during-lessons-can-boost-learning/151159.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Oct 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Oct 2019
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