Exercise unlocks academic improvement

‘Healthy body, healthy mind.’ We’ve all heard the old cliché, but just how true is it? A recent study has identified some compelling evidence in its favour. As reported in The Age article, ‘Exercise linked to higher test scores’, a strong relationship has been found between primary school students who exercise regularly, and improved academic performance.

The study, conducted by Professor Richard Telford of the Australian National University’s medical school, has found that those schools with the top NAPLAN scores also boast the highest level of physical activity amongst students.

Furthermore, a second Telford study has found students taught physical education by specialist PE teachers scored higher NAPLAN results than those supervised by generalist classroom teachers.

These studies have been supported by a decade of neurological research in Germany and the US, which has found exercise, especially fitness activities that involve hand-eye co-ordination, can improve brain function.

Professor Telford claims his findings are “strong evidence for policymakers that specialist physical education in schools is not just important from the perspective of preventative medicine, but it is also associated with improving the academic development of children.”

As a psychologist and educator, I have long advocated the importance of children partaking in regular physical activity, not only within school hours, but also at home.

Parents should aim to establish healthy habits with their children from an early age. These need not be competitive, but inclusive. Some suggestions include:

  • bush walking
  • surfing
  • swimming
  • rowing
  • tennis (doubles)
  • jogging

Such activities are fantastic for fitness, and will allow your children to enjoy the far-reaching benefits exercise provides. What’s more, they offer an opportunity for you to get out and have fun as a family!

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