How activity can massively affect attainment levels

Anyone who has ever worked in a classroom all know that children need to move. The days of Victorian school rooms with children sitting in rows facing the chalkboard and learning by rote are thankfully long gone. Today teachers are asked to prepare multifaceted, interactive lessons with warmup sessions, brain breaks, group work, IT, plenaries and movement.

We all know that children are active learners and achieve best when they are involved in the lesson instead of just watching a presentation by the teacher. What I did not realise until I did further research for this article, was the extent to which activity and attainment are linked.

Neuroscience Magazine in 2010 published research into links between exercise and achievement in primates. Not only did exercise improve blood flow to the primate’s brain, they were also found to learn new tasks twice as quickly as the primates who were not exercising. Now, we all think of our classes little monkeys at times, but does this link between exercise and activity translate across to our class as well?

American studies in 1993, 2007 and 2017 all say that this is the case. Fitness scores were significantly and positively related to academic performance in elementary through to high school students. Active students tended to be better behaved and were increasingly more active learners.

An analysis of academic papers from this time suggests reasons why. They hypothesise that exercise increases blood flow and hence oxygen supplies to the brain. This means that new nerve cells are grown and the synaptic plasticity increases. Putting it simply, our brains grow and they also work better. 

Exercise also promotes the release of endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are the happy chemicals in our bodies that make us feel good.

All the Government recommendations for childhood activity say that children should take part in moderate to vigorous activity for at least an hour a day. This is an hour’s worth of brain and body stimulation – our children will be superstars!


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