How Exercise Affects the Brain and Academic Performance of Elementary School Students

Ted Miracle, Fifth Grade, Grand Oak Elementary School

Final Unit(pdf)   Implementing Teaching Standards(pdf)


Educators have long made correlations between exercise and physical health. In the past, these correlations focused on positive impacts on disease prevention, strength, cardiovascular, and general health.  A growing body of research evidence indicates exercise also has a statistically significant positive impact on adolescent brain development and academic achievement.  These findings are noteworthy because they can impact the educational philosophies and practices of general education and physical education teachers.  For example, teachers who do not currently do so may want to consider adding more physical movement into the academic day.  Schools and school systems may want to ensure students are given time during the school day for exercise and physical activity because a growing number of American students are overweight.  This curriculum unit will highlight research into the connections between exercise and the brain.  It includes activities for use in elementary classrooms that will teach students about how these connections between exercise and brain development are relevant to students as well as educators.