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Physical activity during lessons can boost learning

Cover Media logo Cover Media 2019-10-17
© Provided by Cover Media Ltd

Students who participate in physical exercise while learning perform better in tests than those who don't, according to a new study.

Researchers led by experts at University College London (UCL) have analysed data from 42 studies around the world to assess the benefits of incorporating physical exercise into academic lessons. They found those who did activities such as star jumps or running on the spot did better in tests compared to those who stuck to sedentary learning.

"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. "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."

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

The researchers studied data from 12,663 students aged between three and 14.

Typical physical activities used in a lesson included using movement to signify if a fact is true or false, jumping on the spot a certain number of times to answer a maths question, or simulating travelling by running on the spot between answering questions about different countries.

The team concluded that incorporating physical activity during lessons had a large, significant effect on educational outcomes, which was either signified through test scores or observing students' attention during a given task. They also noted the exercise had a smaller effect on overall educational outcomes, as well as increasing the students' overall levels of physical activity.

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