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Exercise Helps Children Learn, Make Better Grades In School: Experts

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To do better in school, kids should put down their pencils and enjoy a bit of exercise, an international group of experts advises.

The experts' recommendation follows an analysis that looked into how exercise benefits school-age kids. Findings showed that exercise or physical activities before, during and after school help increase academic performance in children.

The study also found that physical activity and exercise improve brain function, cognition and brain structure.

The team is made up of 24 researchers across various disciplines from Europe, Canada and the United States. They looked into recently published medical and scientific studies on the benefits of exercise among kids aged 6 to 18 years old.

These activities include organized sports leagues for youths, outdoor play, recess and physical education classes.

Last April, the experts' panel met at the Copenhagen Consensus Conference held in Snekkersten, Denmark to analyze the value of all exercise types among children in the said age groups. A consensus statement was then made by the experts.

The researchers found that while all physical activities take kids away from their school work or outside of their classrooms, the timeout serves as a good investment to improve academic performance.

They found that a single timeout to perform moderate-intensity exercise can improve not just academic performance but also brain function and cognition.

The benefits don't stop there. Time-out physical activities help clear heads, enabling school kids to boost their confidence around classmates, teachers and coaches, and make friends.

"Time taken away from lessons in favor of physical activity does not come at the cost of getting good grades," the researchers said in a statement [PDF].

While any type of exercise has value, goal-oriented physical activities are even better as they also promote core values such as social responsibility and respect. Regular exercise helps develop important life skills, increase motivation and boost self-esteem.

Time-out activities, which take into account culture and context, can help encourage social inclusion especially among children coming from varying ethnicities, backgrounds, skill levels, physical capacity and sexual orientation.

The consensus statement also highlighted that incorporating physical activity into every school life aspect carries huge benefits for the children. Providing safe public spaces such as parks, playgrounds and bike lanes can enhance physical activity for kids and the youth.

The study authors included Exeter University's Craig Williams and Peter Krustrup; Birmingham University's Joan Duda; Chester University's Ken Green; and University of East London's Symeon Dagkas.

The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on June 27.

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