The harder teens work in the gym or on the sports field, the better they fare on their report cards — especially girls in science, suggests new research.

Researchers at the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee in the United Kingdom analyzed data from 5,000 children who were part of the Children of the 90s study, and found links between academics and moderate to vigorous physical activity that were sustained through the ages of 11, 13, and 15 or 16.

BLOG: Boys Need More Than Hour of Exercise Daily

The science finding among girls was more significant, leading researchers to speculate that physical activity could impact the brains of males and females differently.

“This is an important finding, especially in light of the current UK and European Commission policy aimed at increasing the number of females in science subjects,” the authors said in a press release.

The researchers adjusted for other factors that could have enhanced grades, such as birth weight, mother’s age at delivery, oily fish intake and smoking during the pregnancy, whether the child had reached puberty, weight and socioeconomic factors.

BLOG: Exercise Your Brain

The study also revealed that kids weren’t getting near the recommended amount of exercise. At age 11, boys averaged 29 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, and girls averaged 18. Does this mean kids should spend more time in physical education or recess to improve their math, reading and science? Perhaps so:

“If moderate to vigorous physical activity does influence academic attainment, this has implications for public health and education policy by providing schools and parents with a potentially important stake in meaningful and sustained increases in physical activity,” the researchers wrote.


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