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Children Who Exercie Perform Better Academically


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Children Who Exercise Perform Better Academically Than Their Sedentary Obese Peers
Michael Trollinger
Grand Canyon University
21st Century Skills: Information and Communication Literacy
Alli Holladay
January 25, 2014

Children Who Exercise Perform Better Academically Than Their Sedentary Obese Peers
The combination of a sedentary lifestyle and obesity causes more hazards for children than the obvious health issues such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The not so obvious and often overlooked symptom of lack of exercise and obesity is poor academic performance. Therefore, researchers and school administrations are starting to recognize the importance of having children participate in a regular exercise program as early as the fourth grade, to help them acquire both academic and cognitive success. Students who participate in exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, three days a week achieved better grades, attendance, and fewer behavior problems (Palmer, Miller, & Robinson, 2013, ¶ 3). According to the CDC “… physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”(Center For Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2010, p. 1) Due to biological, chemical and other neurological changes that take place during exercise in the regions of the brain that controls, memory, cognition and reasoning, Children who exercise perform better academically than their sedentary obese peers.
Increased blood flow to the brain improves mental clarity. When you exercise, the increased work load required by your muscles activates the necessity for oxygen-rich blood. In order to meet this need, chemicals such as endorphins are released into the blood stream which increases the heart rate, as well as the blood flow to the body and brain. The carotid arteries and the vertebral arteries carry oxygen rich blood to the front of your brain at an increased rate of about 25 percent during exercise, this increase releases chemicals which stimulates the part of the brain which controls activities such as the ability to pay attention and memory. (Hillman, Erickson, & Kramer, 2008). Simply stated getting the blood flowing via exercise results in better performance on academic test, especially in areas of reading comprehension and mathematics. Research has also shown through the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) that during exercise connections between nerves in the brain are increased, which enables improved information processing and cognition skills. Researchers used three groups of fifth grade students’ students from schools in California, Massachusetts and West Virginia to participate in a study trial. Students were divided into groups which participated in aerobic exercise and classified as within a healthy weight range based on age and size. The next group of students did not do any exercise at all and was classified as obese with a BMI greater than 85%, which was considered outside a healthy weight range based on age and size. When given academic achievement test, the groups who participated in aerobic exercise and had a healthy weight range performed better than the group who performed no exercise at all and were classified as obese due to body mass index (BMI). The researchers concluded there is a direct correlation between academic achievement and exercise (Wittberg, Northrup, & Cottrell, 2012, p. 2303)
In 2010 at Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois students were given the opportunity to participate in an exercise class that took place prior to the start of the official school day, and had access to stationary bikes and balls throughout the day in their classrooms. The results were so incredible that the program has been implemented in all of the school districts in Illinois and is being sought after by districts in other states. The students who participated in the program almost doubled their reading scores and math scores increased almost 20-fold. (Ratey & Hagerman, 2008). In another study completed by the Georgia Department of Education (GDE) Ninety-four healthy, but obese children were randomly chosen to participate in exercise regiments which consisted of low impact 20 minutes per day exercises and high impact 40 minutes per day exercise, which met for 5 days per week for 15 weeks. These students were given a standardized test of cognition individually before and following intervention. Scores for the participants were higher after the high impact exercise for 40 minutes per day than for the low impact control group who exercised only 20 minutes per day. Exercise is crucial for forming both mental and cognitive functions which are both necessary for improving academic performance. (Davis, Tomporowski, Boyle, Waller, & Miller, 2006)
Multiple research is emerging, which are concluding that children who are involved in regular exercise, perform better academically and cognitively than children who are obese and are involved in little or no exercise at all. The increase in workload required of muscles during exercise causes chemicals to be released into the bloodstream and an increase in neurotransmitters, which directly affects performance in students’ memory and concentration

Davis, C. L., Tomporowski, P. D., Boyle, C. A., Waller, J. L., & Miller, P. H. (2006). Exercise on Overweight Children’s Cognitive Functioning: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78 (5), 510-519.
Hillman, C. H., Erickerson, K. I., & Kramer, A. F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9 (1), 58-65.
Palmer, K. K., Miller, M. W., & Robinson, L. E. (2013). Acute Exercise Enhances Preschoolers’ Ability to Sustain Attention. JOURNAL OF SPORTS & EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY, 35 (35), 433-437.
Ratey, J. J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Obesity and our Children (CDC). Columbia University: Columbia University.
Wittberg, R. A., Northrup, K. L., & Cottrell, L. A. (2012). Children’s Aerobic Fitness and Academic Achievement: A Longitudinal examination of Students During their Fifth and Seventh Grade Years. American Journal of Public Health, 102 (12), 2303-2307.

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