Study shows students, especially those with ADHD, have improved academic performance after they exercise

Children do better in school when they aren’t forced to sit still all day, especially those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Gretchen Reynolds reports in The New York Times.

Recent research, published last year in The Journal of Pediatrics, suggests that even small amounts of exercise enable children to improve their focus and academic performance.

The study looked at 40 boys and girls, age 8 to 10, half of whom had ADHD. Researchers gave the students a baseline academic test and also one that tested their attention. They then gave the same tests two more times, first after they had sat and read quietly for 20 minutes and the other after they had walked briskly or jogged 20 minutes on treadmills. Brain activity was recorded as they repeated the original tests.

Little difference was found in any of the students after quietly reading, but “they all showed marked improvements in their math and reading comprehension scores after the exercise,” Reynolds writes. Students with ADHD showed significant increases on their scores and had brain-wave readings that showed them better able to regulate their behavior, which helped them pay attention.

“The results should make administrators question the wisdom of cutting P.E. classes,” Reynolds writes.

This information is a valuable tool for educators, especially in Kentucky, which leads the nation with 19 percent of children ages 4 to 17, compared to 11 percent nationally, who have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The level of exercise needed to show academic and attentional improvement involves activities that can be done in the classroom throughout the day, like marching or hopping in place.

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