In reviewing previous studies, researchers suggest that there may be a positive outcome when combining physical activity with the academic performance in children.

While there are many concerns about the pressure on children during tests, which leads them to spend more instructional time for classroom subjects and less time with physical activity, Amika Singh, Ph.D., of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues reviewed evidence about the relationship between physical activity and academic performance and found that academic performance may bring forth a positive effect on school performance.

Identifying 10 observational and four interventional studies for review, 12 in the U.S. 1 in Canada, and 1 in South Africa, ranging from 53 to about 12,000 participants between the ages of 6 years and 18 years, the authors found that physical activity may help with brain function and stress.

"According to the best-evidence synthesis, we found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance. The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children," the authors of the study said.

With the information they reviewed the authors suggest that exercise may help cognition by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, increasing levels of norepinephrine and endorphins to decrease stress and improve mood, and increasing growth factors that help create new nerve cells and support synaptic plasticity.

Still, "relatively few studies of high methodological quality have explored the relationship between physical activity and academic performance." The study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"More high-quality studies are needed on the dose-response relationship between physical activity and academic performance and on the explanatory mechanisms, using reliable and valid measurement instruments to assess this relationship accurately.”