The Link Between Physical Activity and Academics


The data are clear – healthy students are better learners. Over the years, a number of scientists have shown a correlation between high standardized test scores and physical fitness scores (CA Dept. of Education study), and that more time spent in physical education class did not result in a decrease in academic performance (SPARK study in Research Quarterly – Click Here).

Additional studies around the world have supported these conclusions, while there is virtually no data to justify a common myth: PE should be reduced or eliminated so children have more time to focus on other subjects.

It is important to understand that physical activity positively affects the following:

* Overweight and obesity
* HDL cholesterol
* Blood pressure
* Insulin resistance
* Skeletal health
* Musculoskeletal injuries
* Psychological well-being
* Self-esteem
* Anxiety and depression

An impressive list of outcomes everyone can support. Yet, can we draw the same conclusions from physical education classes? No.

Unfortunately, physical activity and physical education do not always go hand in hand. Studies of physical education have shown not all PE classes are offered in sufficient dosage (frequency and duration) and/or instructed with adequate quality (in this context – 50% or better moderate to vigorous physical activity) to produce the desired health benefits in students. If physical education is not active, it cannot claim the health benefits.

SPARK strongly supports academic learning AND healthy students through quality, daily physical education for grades Pre K-12. And, SPARK realizes that in many schools, physical education and physical activity time are inadequate – totaling far below the recommended 60 minutes a day. Therefore, we’re providing a link to a section on our website that includes resources to support physical educators integrating academic learning and/or reinforcement into their PE classes, and generalists (e.g., classroom teachers) incorporating physical activity into their classrooms.

Click Here to access articles, research studies and webinars that discuss the link between physical activity and academics.

In addition to the content on that page, if you are a member of the SPARKfamily, visit the G.Y.M. (Great Young Minds) section for sample lessons and videos that link physical education to the core content standards.

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