1. Can Sports and Physical Activity Enhance Children's Learning?

Can Sports and Physical Activity Enhance Children's Learning?

Published on 31 Jan 2015
General Article
Shen-Li Lee
Many parents, particularly Asian parents, don’t really care about sports – at least mine didn’t. As long as their kids come home with good results on their report cards for all the subjects that matter, they could be failing PE for all the parents are concerned.  
However, even if your child isn’t planning on pursuing a career in sports, there are many reasons why you should be concerned about his or her PE results, and should try to encourage him or her to participate in sports and other forms of physical activity.   An increasing number of studies have shown that there sports and physical activity are not only important for our children's physical and mental health, but also for their cognitive delvelopment and academic performance.  
Indeed, participation in sports and other physical activities can have a profound impact onour children's physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development, and this is reason enough to take these activities more seriously.
The benefits of sports and physical activity
Here are some of the benefits of participating in sports and physical activity:  
  • Emotional wellbeing - develops confidence, self-esteem, self-concept; provides sense of belonging, opportunity to achieve; improves quality of sleep; allows self expression.
  • Health – encourages healthy growth and development; develops coordination and balance; reduces risk of obesity and other related diseases.
  • Mental health – improves concentration, and stress and anxiety management.
  • Social skills – encourages cooperation and teamwork; develops friendship and integration.
  • Learning and productivity – develops motivation and improves learning outcomes.
  • Positive school environment – reduces aggression and disciplinary issues.
  • Reduction in anti-social behaviour – reduces likelihood of smoking, illicit drug use and criminal activity.
  But beyond the above benefits sports and physical activity have been shown to have a postive impact on brain development.   shutterstock_81178237   How do sports and other physical activities do for your child’s academic performance? Increased participation in sport and other forms of physical activity is believed to lead to enhancement of cognitive functioning (information processing), memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement for children.   One study showed that “athletes… emitted stronger alpha waves“, enabling a state of enhanced creativity and cognitive ability.   Some time back, I was exploring how to get the brain to think faster, particularly in situations where there are a lot of environmental disturbances. It turns out that being trained in sports helps athletes to achieve better results when placed in distracting situations. The increased efficiency of their brains allowed them to filter out those distractions and focus on the task at hand – in other words, increased concentration.   One in-depth study found:
  • a positive link between physical activity and academic performance – children achieved higher grades.
  • positive correlation between sports performance and academic ability (so you should be concerned about your child’s “F” in PE).
  In particular:
  • physical activity improves concentration, attention, and cognitive control.
  • a 10 minute energizer session beginning each day of the school week improved on-task behavior.
  • acute bouts of physical activity exert short term benefits on cognitive functioning.
Participation in sports and physical activities promotes our children's physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. So make sure you encourage your child to be active!   *For more advice on choosing extra-curricular activities for your child, read this article.  *The above article first appeared on www.figur8.net. You can read the original version here.

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