Several studies have highlighted the importance of kids regularly engaging in physical activity. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Geneva explored how kids’ fitness may impact their cognitive and academic abilities.
According to their findings, kids who had the highest cardiorespiratory fitness levels academically outperformed those with lower fitness levels. The results suggest that there may be a relationship between improved fitness and stronger cognitive abilities.
Benefits of consistent physical activity
The researchers conducted a series of tests involving nearly 200 children between the ages of eight and 12. They focused on the three primary executive functions: memory, self-control, and multitasking. The team also evaluated the participants’ physical fitness abilities with a timed running test and compared all of these results with their academic outcomes in several different subjects.
The researchers learned that students who had the highest cardiorespiratory fitness levels performed better academically than those who were weaker in this area. Two subject areas with noted improvements due to higher physical fitness were foreign language and math.
After fully analyzing the results, the researchers determined that the relationship between physical fitness and academics was indirect. They said fitness was most closely related to executive functions like cognitive flexibility, which may be able to help students understand new subjects.
“By demonstrating the link between physical capabilities, such as cardiorespiratory capacity, cognitive abilities, and grades, it underlines the importance of not reducing physical activity (and in particular physical education hours) in favor of other subjects, as this could ultimately have an impact on the development of the child as a whole,” said researcher Marc Yangüez.