The role of physical education on academic performance in primary school

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INTRODUCTION: Within a sedentary society sport and exercise have become popular to maintain and restore health throughout the lifespan. In the context of sport and exercise science, in the recent years health is no longer been regarded just from a physical perspective but positive effects of exercise on mental and social health have gained increased attention. Numerous studies reported on positive effects of exercise on academic achievement in school, work-life-balance, satisfaction in the workplace and a decreased risk of age related dementia. Nevertheless, the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms of the effects of an acute bout of exercise on cognitive performance remain unclear. Theories like the transient hypofrontality assume a shift of cortical activity away from frontal cortex regions during exercise, positively influencing cognitive performance post exercise. But it remains unclear if this shift of activity is primarily provoked by exercise per se or if exercise just acts as a distractor to mainly cognitive orientated content in school. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of a regular exercise class and a regular arts class on neuro-cognitive performance, thus allowing to compare between distraction and exercise.METHODS: Sixteen school children (8-10 years, 8 boys and 8 girls) in grade three in primary school were assessed using electroencephalography before and after (1) a physical education class and (2) an art class. In addition, academic performance was assessed in a standardized assessment of educational attainment (VERA-3) following both classes.RESULTS: A significant decrease (p < .05) of cortical current density (µV2/mm4) was quantifiable in the frontal, parietal and temporal lobe after the physical exercise class but not the art class. No changes in cognitive performance assessed after the exercise and the arts class were obtained.
DISCUSSION: Despite the theory of a transient hypofrontality, activity was reduced after the exercise class in all four lobes. The fact that no straightforward effect on cognitive performance could be shown might be related to the prompt testing post exercise, the children still being in an excited state. We propose that non-major subjects play a major role in school education and are of major relevance to increase pupils concentrativeness and receptivity. The neuro-cognitive effects of exercise should be further evaluated with respect to different kinds of cognitive performance (e.g. creativity, knowledge acquisition) as well as outlasting effects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationENeurosci
Number of pages1
PublisherSociety for Neuroscience
Publication date04.11.2018
Publication statusPublished - 04.11.2018
EventNeuroscience 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience - San Diego, United States
Duration: 03.11.201807.11.2018

ID: 3472909

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