Much is made of the link between the arts and academic success, but less often discussed is the link between physical activity and academic success. According to a 2006 WalesOnline article, Welsh research found that participating in physical education can positively influence academic results in primary school. A separate article published by the American School Board Journal quotes Jim Garrison, the author of a study by the California Department of Education. He says:
…results indicate a consistent positive relationship between overall fitness and academic achievement. That is, as overall fitness scores improved, mean achievement scores also improved. This relationship appeared to be stronger for females than males and stronger for higher socioeconomic status than lower SES students…Results should be interpreted with caution. It cannot be inferred from these data that physical fitness causes academic achievement to improve. It is more likely that physical and mental processes influence each other in ways that are still being understood.
The article goes on to cite some reasons why these correlations might exist: driven students want to succeed in both academics and athletics; physical activity leads to better health, and healthier students are more successful; regular exercise can alleviate stress.
I tend to think that all are factors, but it does seem like common sense to me that children need to burn off some energy if they are going to be in a classroom for long stretches of time. Humans haven’t traditionally sat at desks all day, and the body needs a chance to move around. Now that I think about it, maybe we shouldn’t stop at bringing back PE in schools! Maybe we need to campaign for PE in businesses too!