If your son or daughter has trouble sitting still in class, has difficulty focussing, or isn’t performing to his or her full potential, you might want to do one simple thing: increase their physical activity.

A recent review published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine shows a positive relationship between physical activity and improved academic performance. In fact, the studies reviewed consistently suggest kids who are more active demonstrate greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than their less active counterparts.

Researchers theorize that physical activity enhances brain function and thinking skills by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain and triggering the release of endorphins. Although the evidence is compelling, a link confirming that fitness alone leads to better test scores in children is still needed – obviously many factors need to be isolated and weighted.

When it comes to physical activity (unlike so many other things in life!) more is better. Research also suggests we might derive more health benefits from swapping one longer daily workout for several shorter ones – perhaps three 20-minute ‘mini’ workouts. To augment your child’s daily physical activity and to encourage your child’s school to expand opportunities for kids to be active, consider the following tips:

  1. Encourage your kids to walk or bike to school with friends.
  2. Work with your child’s school to ensure a supply of balls, jump ropes and hula hoop are available for kids to take outdoors at recess and lunch.
  3. Limit screen time.
  4. Consider stocking your child’s classroom with some jump ropes, soccer balls, basketballs and even tennis balls that can be signed out by children for play at recess and lunch.
  5. Register your child for lunchtime and after-school activities.
  6. Encourage your child to play outdoors with friends.
  7. Advocate for more activity breaks and physical education classes at school.
  8. Volunteer to coach an activity or sport at your child’s school.
  9. Before starting homework, encourage your child to enjoy some active play.
  10. Be an active role model and make time to be active as a family every day.