7 Science-Backed Ways Exercise Improves Students’ Grades

According to a recent study, kids who are active 20 minutes before a test tend to score better. In fact, over time, regular physical activity leads to all kinds of brain-boosting benefits. Here are seven ways scientific research has shown that exercise can improve students’ grades.

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Kids who exercise score higher on testsPhoto: ShutterStock

1. Exercise enhances a child's ability to concentrate

In order to score well on a test, kids need to be able to concentrate on the task at hand. Studies have shown that exercising before a test helps increase the volume of the basal ganglia—an important part of the brain that helps with executive control, function and attention.

Check out these 10 All-Natural Concentration Boosters!

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Kids who exercise have longer attention spansPhoto: ShutterStock

2. Exercise increases a child’s attention span

Kids who are physically active also tend to be able to focus on any given task for a longer period of time—a skill that definitely comes in handy when they encounter a tough math problem.

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Active children have better memory Photo: Shutterstock

3. Physical activity improves memory

Being able to recall key facts and concepts quickly is critical to doing well on tests, and research has shown physical activity can help in this regard as well. In one study published in Brain Research, 9- and 10-year-olds who were physically fit had larger hippocampi than their peers; this in turn translated to better memory task performance.

Check out these 6 Everyday Habits of People With Impressive Memory!

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Physically active kids are more confidentPhoto: ShutterStock

4. Exercise boosts confidence

Regular physical activity increases confidence and self-esteem in all areas of life, including academics. Students who are more confident are better problem solvers. In other words, believing leads to achieving!

Take a cue from these 12 Habits of Highly Confident People!

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Kid with pre-test jittersPhoto: ShutterStock

5. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety

We can all relate to having pre-test jitters. What if I fail? What if I forget everything? What if my pencil breaks and my calculator quits working? A quick burst of activity can help clear the mind, reduce stress and crush those negative thoughts.

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Physically active kids are creative kidsPhoto: ShutterStock

6. Physical activity heightens creativity

Sometimes doing well on a test requires more than a little creativity. Surprisingly, physical activity has been shown to improve convergent and divergent thinking, leading to a tangible increase in creative problem solving ability.

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Long-term benefits of childhood exercisePhoto: ShutterStock

7. The benefits of physical activity increase over time

While some of the effects of physical activity are immediate, the longer-term mental health benefits are even greater. In addition to increasing confidence, creativity and concentration right away, over time, exercise can increase students’ neuroplasticity, allowing them to form new pathways in their brains and become faster learners. It also increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and releases neurotransmitters and neurotrophins that support higher learning and thinking.

For tips on how to encourage your kids to move more, check out ParticipAction!