Physically active children have improved learning and well-being, DMU researchers find

Regular exercise can dramatically improve a child’s learning, behaviour and well-being, according to new research led by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

SPORT SURVEY kids main

Health and Life Sciences academics assessed the motor skill proficiency skills of 2,000 children at 14 primary schools across Leicestershire as they took part in physical evaluation tests.

Increased activity levels were found to have crucial benefits to a child’s confidence, behaviour, academic achievement and body measurements.

The Internship School Movement Pilot Project (ISMP) was aimed at preventing obesity by improving school children’s physical exercise and movement.

The research found that exercise among children can be a firm foundation for better balance, flexibility, handwriting, and co-ordinated hand and finger movements. Children were also found to become better listeners and less fidgety.

This had a positive impact on behaviour and academic attainment, and a longer-term knock-on effect of improved health and less medical intervention.

Key findings showed children who regularly exercised were:

  • 48% better in movement skills.
  • 11.5% faster and more accurate with their eye-hand manipulation co-ordination skills.
  • 35% more likely to be proficient at hopping.
  • 14% more superior in agility and accuracy.

The study also successfully improved sporting abilities and created a positive experience of physical activity for children, as well as their teachers, parents and carers.


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Scott Yates, Reader in Psychosocial Studies at DMU, said the research proved that the more physically active children are, the more their health and learning skills are improved.

He said: “We were keen to explore the knock-on benefits of exercise on learning, well-being and school attainment.

“We’re always interested in being involved in work that seeks to promote the well-being of children and to improve their outlook on life.

“It’s also important for our teaching that we have academics involved in research so we can pass our expertise on to the community and share cutting-edge findings with our students.”

DMU academics worked in partnership with Leicestershire Public Health and SAQ International on the ten-month project.

Mark Braham, Strategic Commissioner at Leicestershire Public Health, which funded the research, said: “We have identified a growing problem with children being poorly physically developed when they start school, for example they are not able to balance on one leg or complete similar physical tasks.

“We believe this is because children are spending longer in their buggies as babies, are crawling for longer rather than walking and not being encouraged to play independently.

“This is not something we can change overnight but high-profile programmes like this go a long way to promoting the importance of physical activity. It also shows the varied benefits of sustained exercise which are now embedded into these schools.”

The pilot project from September 2014 to July 2015 also involved more than 350 members of staff, plus hundreds of parents. Seven of the schools were intervention schools where developmental movement was introduced, and six were controlled schools.

Participating schools continue to work closely with a qualified exercise specialist, who offers equipment, resources and physical exercise training, as well as parent workshops.


Posted on Friday 2nd February 2018

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