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Academic Achievement Higher Among Most Active Kids: Vigorous Physical Activity Linked To Better Grades

Children who participate in vigorous physical activity, such as sports, perform better in school, according to a new study released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

The most active kids more often have better grades, found the examination of activity and physical education (PE) compared to academic achievement.

The link between activity and academic performance was most significant when kids met Healthy People 2010 (HP2010) guidelines for vigorous activity 20 minutes a day, at least three days a week. Grades were not affected among kids who were moderately active for 30 minutes at least five days a week, the study researchers found.

The study was conducted to determine the effect of physical education class enrollment and overall physical activity on academic achievement.

Some 214 middle school-aged students participated, all of whom were randomly assigned to a PE course for either the first (August to mid-January) or second (mid-January to June) semester of the academic year. The research team measured students' physical activity in and outside school in 30-minute blocks, and compared their individual grades in core subjects, such as English, world studies, science and mathematics.

"Physical education and activity during the school day may reduce boredom and help keep kids attention in the classroom," said Dawn Podulka Coe, Ph.D., the study's lead author. "We were expecting to find that students enrolled in PE would have better grades because of the opportunity to be active during the school day. But, enrollment in PE alone did not influence grades. The students who performed better academically in this study were the most active, meaning those who participated in a sport or other vigorous activity at least three times a week."

Most of the vigorous activity was achieved outside the classroom, in sports such as soccer, football, basketball and baseball/softball. Since academic performance was favorably influencedby this level of activity, the researchers suggest incorporating vigorous activity in PE classes.

"This is a good tool for all of us — parents, teachers and researchers alike — to understand what motivates students and possibly coordinate their activity and academic needs," said Coe.

The study was published in the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise ®, the official journal of ACSM. The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.

For more information on the American College of Sports Medicine, visit

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