Active Boys Fare Better in School
Any mother of little boys could probably have saved scientists in Finland some expense, recently. That’s because the Finns invested considerable time and money in a study of boys; their physical activity levels, and their academic performance. The researchers’ conclusion? Higher levels of physical activity translate to better performance in school, especially among boys in the first three years of school.
I suspect most mothers know this intuitively. I’m certainly not surprised. Boys need to be free to run and play. For example, the most active boys—the ones who rode a bike or walked to and from school every day—demonstrated superior reading skills, compared to less active boys. Of course, young girls need exercise and play, too. But the effects on academic performance—how well a student does in school—were more pronounced among young boys. Researchers even looked at how active children were during recess. Again, the boys who ran around and played actively were more likely to do better academically.
I wholeheartedly support more activity for boys and girls, alike. For that matter, their parents could probably benefit from some additional physical activity every day—and less time spent being sedentary. Sedentary is for rocks. It is becoming increasingly clear every day that being sedentary dulls the mind, slows the metabolism, and promotes a host of unhealthy changes in the body. It’s also, evidently, not conducive to learning.
The Finns also concluded that boys who spent time reading and writing during their free time were better readers than their peers who didn’t engage in these activities voluntarily. Well, that seems like common sense. So, again, no surprise. But another finding was a bit surprising, and it leaves me vaguely uncomfortable: Boys who spent more time playing video games and with computers did better in math than their peers that spent less time playing video games. Not very active, it seems, but evidently computers and video games stimulate the mind in ways that boost arithmetic skills.I suspect that particular finding would depend on kids spending some time with games, but not too much.
Eero A. Haapala, Anna-Maija Poikkeus, Katriina Kukkonen-Harjula, Tuomo Tompuri, Niina Lintu, Juuso Väistö, Paavo H. T. Leppänen, David E. Laaksonen, Virpi Lindi, Timo A. Lakka. Associations of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior with Academic Skills – A Follow-Up Study among Primary School Children. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e107031 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107031