Does physical activity have a positive impact on academic performance?

Cartoon illustration of a boy running through a forest of books

Most of us know by now that physical activity isn't just about keeping kids healthy and fit? It plays a big role in helping them academically too. Thankfully there's some real evidence to back this up, so we thought it might be helpful to provide a quick summary of some of the research.

Active or Academic?

Exercise does wonders for the brain. Research (Hillman et al, 2008) found that aerobic exercises like running and swimming can actually improve memory, attention, and thinking skills in children. In short, all that running about might be helping with more than just working up an appetite!

Healthy Kids, Healthy Brains

There's more good news from researchers like Chaddock et al. (2011): children who stay fit and healthy tend to have better learning abilities. Their work showed that physical activity and exercise contributes to the growth of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that helps with memory and learning. Furthermore a review by researchers Fedewa and Ahn (2011) also found that physical activity has a positive impact on maths and literacy attainment.

Playtime is a serious business

Physical activity in school is more than just a break from lessons. Research showed that students who engaged more in PE were less likely to struggle academically (Rasberry et al. 2011). So, improving Maths and English results isn't just a case of doing more Maths and English teaching!

Wait what? More movement means better English and Maths results?

All the schools we have contact with already know this but are having to operate within an education system that heavily favours core academic subjects over every other aspect of daily school life. All the Moki data we have seen over the last four years shows that any attempt to make regular lessons less sedentary with even the slightest addition of movement has a profound impact on daily activity levels.

Teamwork, On and Off the Field

Physical activity teaches more than just how to kick a ball or swing a bat. It's about learning teamwork, discipline, and setting goals. A study by Nelson and Gordon-Larsen (2006) pointed out how these life skills translate into better academic achievements. Who knew that team sports could help with algebra? That's why we designed Moki, not just to engage individual children, but the whole class, year or school. Every player (even the teachers!) gets to join in and contribute in their own way. 'With Moki, every child makes the team'.



1. Hillman, C.H., Erickson, K.I., Kramer, A.F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. *Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9*(1), 58-65.
2. Chaddock, L., Erickson, K.I., Prakash, R.S., et al. (2011). A neuroimaging investigation of the association between aerobic fitness, hippocampal volume, and memory performance in preadolescent children. *Brain Research, 1358*, 172-183.
3. Fedewa, A.L., Ahn, S. (2011). The effects of physical activity and physical fitness on children's achievement and cognitive outcomes: A meta-analysis. *Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82*(3), 521-535.
4. Rasberry, C.N., Lee, S.M., Robin, L., et al. (2011). The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: A systematic review of the literature. *Preventive Medicine, 52*(Suppl 1), S10-20.
5. Nelson, M.C., Gordon-Larsen, P. (2006). Physical activity and sedentary behavior patterns are associated with selected adolescent health risk behaviors. *Pediatrics, 117*(4), 1281-1290.