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`Association between Physical Activity and Teacher-Reported Academic Performance among Fifth-Graders in Shanghai: A Quantile Regression' by Zhang, Y, Zhang, D et al.

PLoS ONE, March 2015


We know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well, how about telling your students that moderate-intensity exercise and less homework can help keep bad grades at bay?

A review of 1,470 Shanghai fifth-grade students compares physical activity to academic performance scores and concludes that doing more than two hours of homework a day and no exercise hinders students rather than improving their study.

A Chinese education is geared towards academic excellence, not physical well-being, and it has been partly blamed for high rates of obesity and type-2 diabetes across the city's population of 1.6 million students, the report's authors say.

And constant studying doesn't just affect physical ability, they argue - it also interferes with academic performance. Homework, in particular, was found to have a negative impact on schoolwork if a student did more than two hours a day of it rather than focusing on another activity.

However, physical activity alone is not a panacea, according to the study.

To measure students' physical output, they were asked how often and for how long they had exercised. The researchers found that children in the bottom 25 per cent of their class benefited most from physical activity. But the academic performance scores of students in the top 50 per cent of their class were barely affected by exercise.

Nevertheless, the study concludes that a "multilevel approach" to exercising at home and school will better enable students to fulfil both their academic and physical needs.

William Martin

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