How sports improves academic performance

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Published: June 1, 2015 12:03:49 AM

Girija Agarwal, the Bangalore student who last year secured the first rank in CET Medical, also excels in dance and art.

Girija Agarwal, the Bangalore student who last year secured the first rank in CET Medical, also excels in dance and art. She can run 10 km in 56 minutes and is an ace swimmer. She said switching between academics and recreational activities has helped her to focus.

In several Indian high educational institutes, you will find many students who have played at state or national level, and many more who have been part of their school teams.

In fact, yours truly was selected for the Maharashtra badminton team, but could not make it to IIT Bombay’s badminton team, though managed to get into IIT Bombay’s football team.

In spite of anecdotal evidence about students with good academic performance being very good in physical sports, there is a general perception that holds otherwise.

What could be the reasons? One, those who pursue sports as a career tend to be not so good in academics, barring exceptions such as Rahul Dravid or Anil Kumble. Two, children who are good at sports tend spend more time at it, and parents think this will distract them from academics. Three, because most Indian schools’ primary goal is academics, there is a view that spending more time on academics is necessary.

However, what does the scientific research say?

A review of scientific literature and research papers published over the last 15 years shows a positive correlation between physical activity and academic performance. In fact, the review of a research published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine authored by Amika Singh of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center’s EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research in Amsterdam points to the fact that “there is a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance.”

Regular physical activity is seen to lead to better brain functioning, possibly due to increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain as well as the release of chemicals such as Oxytocin which help develop a positive “can do” attitude.

Another paper, Physical education, school physical activity, school sports and academic performance, by Francois Trudeau and Roy J Shephard published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity concluded: “Given competent providers, physical activity can be added to the school curriculum by taking time from other subjects without risk of hindering student academic achievement. On the other hand, adding time to ‘academic’ or ‘curricular’ subjects by taking time from physical education programmes does not enhance grades in these subjects and may be detrimental to health.”

We have been working with schools and our experience over the last six years has been extremely positive. School heads, in fact, have confirmed improved discipline, focus and attention of students after the introduction of the EduSports programme. Schools have also seen an improvement in attendance levels as children do not fall ill as often after our programme was introduced. Parents have given feedback about improved energy levels, ability to focus, enthusiasm as well as social skills in their kids.

Human children, like most living beings, are designed to play. Not to sit in a classroom for 8-10 hours. Sports is an integral part of education. And through an appropriate sports programme, we can certainly help children get better at academics.

The author is MD & co-founder, EduSports, India’s largest school sports company.

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