Can Physical Activity Influence Academic Performance?

December 2016

Children need to be active in order to physically develop. A new study shows that activity can play a major role in academic performance as well. Moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary time (SD) were compared to reading and arithmetic skills for children in 1st through 3rd grade (6-8 years old).[1] Researchers found greater differences for boys, with those who had lower levels of MVPA and higher levels of SD showing poorer reading fluency and comprehension. For girls, the only difference occurred in 2nd graders and actually showed that higher SD was related to better arithmetic skills. This was no longer significant after being adjusted for body fat percentage.

Physical activity may not be limited to just the playground, but can take place inside the classroom as well. Traditional classroom furniture was compared to non-traditional (dynamic) furniture in a classroom setting.[2] Children were taught a lesson and then given questions related to the lecture along with age-appropriate math problems. There were no differences in the test question results for either furniture condition. The dynamic furniture did result in significantly more physical activity. The dynamic furniture did not result in better comprehension, but it also did not hinder it while providing higher activity levels.

In younger preschool children, activity during recess was measured to determine if there was an association between activity, self-regulation, and academic achievement.[3] Activity was not directly linked to better reading and math skills in this study, however children who spent more time in MVPA performed better on a self-regulation task. Higher self-regulation scores were in turn linked to higher math and reading scores.

Physical activity for children is essential for physical development, but it may be just as important for learning and cognitive development. Incorporating more activity into their day, including in the classroom, my help to set this foundation.


Kiwi

Kiwi, or kiwifruit, are native to China but were first grown commercially in New Zealand.[4] They were known as Chinese gooseberries when New Zealand began exporting them to the United States after World War II, but growers eventually began calling them kiwifruit, after the country’s famous native kiwi bird.

Kiwifruits have fuzzy dull browns kin, green flesh with black seeds, and a flavor that can be described as a cross between strawberry, melon, and banana. They contain more vitamin C per ounce than an orange, as well as vitamin K, copper, fiber, vitamin E, and other nutrients. One area of research that has intrigued scientists is the kiwi’s ability to protect DNA in the nucleus of human cells from oxygen-related damage. These antioxidant properties are likely caused by the kiwi’s high concentrations of flavonoids and carotenoids. A study showed that these antioxidant properties may prevent children from developing some respiratory issues. The more kiwi or citrus fruit children consumed, the less likely they were to develop issues such as wheezing, shortness of breath, or night coughing. Children that had asthma at the beginning of the study showed the most benefit in changes.

Kiwi can also help to lower the risk of blood clots. Aspirin is often recommended to reduce the risk of clotting, but this can come with several other negative side effects. In a study where subjects ate 2-3 kiwi each day, they were able to reduce their platelet aggregation by 18% compared to the control, and they even decreased their triglycerides by 15%.

Once considered exotic, kiwifruits are now available year round due to different growing seasons in different countries. When picking out your kiwi, they should give a little bit under the pressure of your thumb. If they are too firm, they need to be given a few days ripen. Do not select kiwis that are overly soft or have damp spots. Kiwifruit can be enjoyed without any preparation, and they can also provide a unique flavor to baked goods.


Kiwi Quick Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2⁄3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup ripe kiwifruit, peeled and mashed

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 X 5 X 3 loaf pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder baking soda and salt and set aside.

In large bowl cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time to creamed mixture beating well after each one. Stir in kiwis. Fold in dry ingredients gently, stirring only until batter is completely moistened. Spoon batter into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack. Remove from pan and continue cooling on rack.

Recipe from http://www.food.com/recipe/kiwi-quick-bread-123565/


EPOC

Excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is a term that is used to define the oxygen that we use after exercise while we are still recovering. This increased oxygen consumption results in additional calories being used during the recovery process.

If the amount of EPOC is higher after some exercises compared to others, it may result in more calories being burned during the recovery period. A study compared steady state cycling and running to intermittent bouts of cycling and running.[5] All 4 different exercises were performed until 400 calories were burned during exercises, which makes them isocaloric bouts. Oxygen consumption was measured after each bout and showed significantly greater consumption during the intermittent bouts compared to the steady state bouts. The type of exercise also made a difference, with intermittent running resulting in greater EPOC than intermittent cycling.

In a different study, researchers kept the exercise bouts equal by matching the same amount of total oxygen consumed for each type of exercise.[6] The subjects performed either a steady state walk or an interval walking protocol. The interval walking resulted in significantly higher EPOC following exercise compared to the steady state walking.

When compared to other types of exercise, interval or intermittent exercise are better at increasing EPOC compared to isocaloric, steady state exercise. This may result in greater weight loss over time.


Health Matters is written by Lindsey Guthrie, MS, RD, LD/N and Tyler Guthrie, MS, CSCS.

References:

  1. Haapala EA, Vaisto J, Lintu N, et al. Physical activity and sedentary time in relation to academic achievement in children. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2016.
  2. Garcia JM, Huang TT, Trowbridge M, et al. Comparison of the effects of stable and dynamic furniture on physical activity and learning in children. Journal of primary Prevention. 2016; 37: 555.
  3. Becker DR, McClelland MM, Loprinzi P, Trost SG. Physical activity, self-regulation, and early academic achievement in preschool children. Early Education and Development. 2014; 25: 56-70.
  4. The George Mateljan Foundation. Kiwifruit. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=134
  5. The George Mateljan Foundation. Green Beans. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=41
  6. Cunha FA, Midgley AW, McNaughton LR, Farinatti PTV. Effect of continuous and intermittent bouts of isocalroic cycling and running exercise on excess postexercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2016; 19(2): 187.
  7. Karstoft K, Wallis GA, Pedersed BK, Solomon TPJ. The effects of interval- vs. continuous exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and substrate oxidation rates in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Metabolism. 2016; 65(9): 1316.

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