Exercise or Obesity and Diabetes Research
Physical Activity Promotes Academic Learning
1. Haga, M. 2008. “The Relationship Between Physical Fitness and Motor Competence in Children.” Child: Care, Health and Development 34(3):329–34.
2. Kantomaa, Marko T., Emmanuel Stamatakis, Anna Kankaanpaa, Marika Kaakinen, Alina Rodriguez, Anja Taanila, Timo Ahonen, Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin, and Tuijua Tammelin. 2013. “Physical Activity and Obesity Mediate the Association Between Childhood Motor Function and Adolescents’ Academic Achievement.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(5): 1917-1922.
3. Pesce, Caterina et al. 2013. “Searching for Cognitively Optimal Challenge Point in Physical Activity for Children with Typical and Atypical Motor Development.” Mental Health and Physical Activity.
Lack of Physical Activity Hinders Motor Skills and Academic Achievement
Physical inactivity is associated with various health risks for children, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even lower psychological well-being. In addition to increased health risks, physical inactivity may have harmful effects on children’s cognitive function and academic achievement, according to the findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
Kantomaa et al. (2013) investigated whether children’s motor skills have an impact on their academic performance. The researchers measured a child’s motor skills by examining their engagement in physical activity, their body fat percentage, and fitness levels. The findings revealed compromised motor skills in childhood did indeed have a negative effect on academic achievement by the time children reached adolescence.
Children’s early motor function is related to the development of language acquisition, basic academic skills, and their academic trajectory. Physically active children maintained a higher grade-point average by the time they reached secondary school, compared to obese children who had a lower grade point average.
Kantomaa, Marko T., Emmanuel Stamatakis, Anna Kankaanpaa, Marika Kaakinen, Alina Rodriguez, Anja Taanila, Timo Ahonen, Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin, and Tuijua Tammelin. 2013. “Physical Activity and Obesity Mediate the Association Between Childhood Motor Function and Adolescents’ Academic Achievement.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(5): 1917-1922.
Children Benefit from Physical Activity that Promotes both Cognitive and Motor Development
Researchers have been exploring the benefits of physical activity on children’s learning processes and cognitive functions. Cognitive functions are primary responsible for self-regulation, goal-oriented and health-related behaviors. Early childhood has been referred to as the “skill hungry years” in which the strongest emphasis should be placed on physical activity that promotes both cognitive and motor development.
Pesce et al. (2013) discovered the ‘cognitively’ optimal point in physical activity by examining children’s cognitive performance, balance, attention, motor coordination and dexterity, during school-based physical activity interventions.
Two intervention programs were created, both made of similar games that challenged motor control and perceptual-motor abilities. One program had children participating in physical activity games which required higher amounts of mental engagement and were specifically tailored to challenge executive functions.
For instance, children’s roles within the game fluctuated as the varying tasks increased in difficulty. Thus, researchers were able to examine children’s problem-solving skills as children’s roles within the game, along with their tasks, were not fixed.
Furthermore, results showed physical activities that challenge children’s motor control, perceptual-motor adaptation, and cognitive functions, were most appropriate for those with motor developmental difficulties. Children who participated in cognitively enriched motor activities were also better at simultaneously managing tasks.
Pesce, Caterina et al. 2013. “Searching for Cognitively Optimal Challenge Point in Physical Activity for Children with Typical and Atypical Motor Development.” Mental Health and Physical Activity.
Motor Development Relates to Cognitive Development
1. Burns, Yvonne, Michael O’Callaghan, Brian McDonell, and Yvonne Rogers. 2004. “Movement and Motor Development in ELBW Infants at 1 Year Is Related to Cognitive and Motor Abilities at 4 Years.” Early Human Development 80(1):19–29.
2. Cameron, Claire E. et al. 2012. “Fine Motor Skills and Executive Function Both Contribute to Kindergarten Achievement.” Child Development 83(4):1229–44.
3. Diamond, Adele. 2000. “Close Interrelation of Motor Development and Cognitive Development and of the Cerebellum and Prefrontal Cortex.” Child Development 71(1):44–56.
4. Jenni, Oskar G., Aziz Chaouch, Jon Caflisch, and Valentin Rousson. 2013. “Correlations Between Motor and Intellectual Functions in Normally Developing Children Between 7 and 18 Years.” Developmental Neuropsychology 38(2):98–113.
5. Lopes, Luís, Rute Santos, Beatriz Pereira, and Vítor P. Lopes. 2013. “Associations Between Gross Motor Coordination and Academic Achievement in Elementary School Children.” Human Movement Science 32(1):9–20.
6. Piek, Jan P., Lisa Dawson, Leigh M. Smith, and Natalie Gasson. 2008. “The Role of Early Fine and Gross Motor Development on Later Motor and Cognitive Ability.” Human Movement Science 27(5):668–81.
7. Churink, J., E. Hartman, E. J. A. Scherder, S. Houwen, and C. Visscher. 2012. “Relationship Between Motor and Executive Functioning in School-age Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.” Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 6(2):726–32.
8. Seung-Hee Son, and Samuel J. Meisels. 2006. “The Relationship of Young Children’s Motor Skills to Later Reading and Math Achievement.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 52(4):755–78.