Does Exercise Build Boys’ Reading Scores?

There’s been a lot of debate about the value of physical activity as it correlates with higher cognitive skills and attention. New research from the University of Finland now suggests that “high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and low levels of sedentary time in first grade were related to better reading skills in grades one to three among boys. Conversely, boys who had a combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the poorest reading skills through grades one to three, said researcher Eero Haapala, Ph.D.”

Interestingly, time spent in sedentary activities versus vigorous physical activity did not have the same effect on girls’ reading and math scores.

Are we implying that a fast game of tag or kickball at recess could up boys’ reading skills in the early elementary school grades? Maybe research like this could help in the fight to bring back recess. The growing trend to steal time from recess for added academic subjects has been growing as I see the pressure build to push out free play to be replaced by more structured attention to the ABC’s beginning in preschool.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes the benefits of recess for the whole child, physically and mentally: “Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize.811 After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively.1216 In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.8,11,17” 

As an educator/therapist, I certainly can agree with the benefits of physical activity breaks for better learning as well as incorporating movement activities within the speech therapy session. One of my most successful sessions with a young boy was doing articulation therapy while playing soccer in his back yard. It was a bit tricky keeping my word lists in hand and managing my soccer strategy but we had fun as well as made progress on his sounds!






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