Exercise Science: Boosting Test Scores with Exercise

exercise-science-boosting-test-scores-with-exerciseAnyone who follows our blog here at Youth to the Core knows how strongly we feel about keeping recess and exercise science in our children’s schools. We’ve written before about the importance of recess and PE in the overall development of a well-rounded education, but today we’re going to talk about how regular exercise can help students improve a specific factor in their education: standardized test scores.

Standardized test scores are a hot topic in education these days. They can determine everything from a school’s funding to a student’s future, and they are one of the most prevalent tools used to gauge a student’s progress through the education system.


The Basics 

Exercise science and recess provide children with the time they need to exercise and stay healthy. Unfortunately, many schools have started cutting back on recess and PE in order to give children more time in the classroom. While this approach looks great on paper, in practice things are a different story entirely.

“Some short-sighted people thought cutting back on time spent on physical education to spend more time drilling for tests would improve test scores,” Howell Wechsler, director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health for the CDC. Yet many studies are showing that the opposite is proving to be true: less time for recess and PE means a decrease in academic performance.

This might be due to a wide variety of factors, but a few things are certain. The exercise provided by recess and PE provide a wide range of tangible physical benefits, including:

–       Increased oxygen flow to the brain

–       An increase in available neurotransmitters in the brain

–       “[Increased] brain-derived neurotrophins that support neuronal differentiation and survival in the developing brain.” (sparkpe.com)


Test Scores by the Numbers

These various benefits do wonders for improving children’s focus in the classroom, but how does that translate to test scores?

A study of 105 students at a struggling South Carolina school implemented 40 minutes of exercise science per day during the school day, with age-appropriate academic content accompanying the physical activity. This is very similar to the way in which the Youth to the Core program functions.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the study found a stunning 13% increase in test scores throughout the groups of students participating in the exercise science program.

Studies like this have not gone unnoticed. The National Association of Sport and Physical Education recommends at least 150 minutes of PE, exercise science or other exercise each week for elementary students, and at least 60 minutes a day for all students.

Even the Center for Disease control now recommends that children study exercise science in schools, saying, “…physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”


With test scores becoming more and more important it is quickly becoming imperative that schools reinstitute or maintain their exercise science and PE programs. Youth to the Core provides a well-rounded physical education program that focuses on developing a well-rounded student through a combination of Pilates-based exercises and classroom education.

Exercise science, physical education and general exercise are crucial to the overall development of a well-rounded student, and Youth to the Core is striving to make those resources available to every possible child.

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