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Sep 12, 2014 06:40 AM EDT

High Level of Physical Activity Improves Academic Results in Boys, Study

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Extensive physical activity leads to enhanced academic results during the first three years of school, particularly in boys, according to a University of Eastern Finland study.

For the study, the researchers examined the relationships between different types of physical activity and sedentary behavior evaluated during the first grade to reading and arithmetic skills in grade 1-3 among 186 Finnish children .

The researchers observed that greater levels of physical activity resulted in better reading skills, while organized sports was related to higher arithmetic test scores in grades 1-3.

In boys, walking and bicycling was associated with enhanced reading skills. Those who participated in activities of reading and writing during their leisure time developed better reading skills compared to boys who spent less time in such events. Plus, boys who spent more time on the computer or play video game attained good scores in an arithmetic test, than those who played relatively less computer and video games.

The researchers observed few associations of physical activity and sedentary behavior with academic achievement in girls.

The findings indicate the importance of physical activity and organized sports in the improvement of academic achievement in children. Particularly, boys will benefit from higher levels of physical activity, active school transportation, and moderate computer and video game use.

The finding is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

According to a combined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the National Youth Fitness Survey, majority of American teenagers fail to meet the federal government's recommended physical activity levels.

"Regular physical activity among youth promotes physical and psychological health and improves some aspects of academic performance. Given that physical inactivity in adulthood is a modifiable risk factor for many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, tracking the prevalence of physical activity among U.S. youth may help inform public health interventions," Tala H. Fakhouri, study's lead author and an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics (part of CDC), said in a statement.

In 2012, only 24.8 percent of adolescents, aged between 12 to 15 years, engaged in the prescribed moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least an hour per day. Nearly 8 percent of youth did not follow the guidelines at all. "We can aim to do better than 25%," Fakhouri said.

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