When kids play sports, the benefits go well beyond the athletic realm, as any lockdown-weary parent will tell you. Children can burn off excess energy or ease the cries of boredom.
Athletic children feel better and are more focused than non-exercise children. And that means by age 11, they’re more likely to get the best grades needed to enter select schools, reveals a subcohort study in Bavaria from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
There is a strong positive correlation between children’s physical fitness and their level of concentration, health-related quality of life and overall academic success, shows the study, which included 3,285 girls and 3,248 boys between the ages of six and 10.
Scientists see a tangible benefit in promoting children’s gross and fine motor skills at an early age. “Primary school students who are physically fit and have the ability to concentrate are more likely to make it to secondary schools,” explains Professor Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz, who researches preventive pediatrics at the TUM’s Faculty of Sports and Health Sciences.
“It is all the more important to encourage the motor development of children at an early stage, as this can have a positive effect on the development of mental fitness,” adds Oberhoffer-Fritz.
Gross motor skills involve whole body movement and utilize the large core stabilizing muscles in the upper body, legs and arms. They are crucial for the everyday life of the children, e.g. B. sitting upright at the table or running across a field. And they form the basis of self-care tasks like dressing, which requires children to stand on one leg to put on their pants without falling over.
They can encourage skills like climbing, kicking, and lifting to develop your kids’ gross motor skills. Structured physical activity – or a mix of structured and unstructured physical activity – is found to be the most effective way to encourage the development of a child’s gross motor skills a study from 2021 in Psychology of sport and exercise.
Fine motor skills involve the use and coordination of the small muscles in areas such as the hands, wrists and eyes. she affect the quality the result of a task and the speed at which it is performed.
You can set tasks with precise movements such as painting, crafting and using blocks to promote the development of fine motor skills in children. As well as the obvious benefits for muscle control, this aids in hand-eye coordination and the use of different muscles at the same time.
When it comes to effectively promoting the development of a child’s fine motor skills, a structured one is essential activity works best. That means all those hours of messy play with sequins, poster paint, and Lego bricks with a toddler can add to their educational success years later.
Physical activity can also have different effects on gender. The study shows that physically fit boys perform better on general fitness tests, and fit girls perform better on concentration and quality of life.
The results also show that body weight is an important indicator of children’s physical and emotional health. Overweight children performed significantly worse on all physical fitness tests — and had lower self-esteem and general well-being — than underweight and normal-weight children.
These results also have implications for local politics and parent-teacher associations. “Cooperation between parents, schools, municipalities and sports clubs is very important in order to create a comprehensive and needs-based offer,” says Oberhoffer-Fritz.
dr Thorsten Schulz, head of the TUM study team, says: “Based on the results of the study, the Berchtesgadener Land district office is giving all first-graders in the region a voucher for a one-year membership in a sports club. This is a great example of how different stakeholders can work together and help motivate children to be more physically active.”
It is still unclear how the connection between physical activity and factors such as concentration, health-related quality of life and overall school performance develops with increasing age of the children. The research team plans to study these changes over the coming months.
But in the meantime, we’re excited to see that sending elementary school children to play ball while adults have a moment of rest is an effective way to improve children’s academic performance.