Children see the benefits of sport as adults

When kids play sports, the benefits go way beyond the sports field, as any lockdown-weary parent will tell you. Children can burn off excess energy or relieve bored cries.

Athletic kids feel better and have higher levels of concentration than kids who don’t play sports. And that means they’re more likely to get the top grades needed to get into selective schools at age 11, reveals a sub-cohort study in Bavaria from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).


There is a strong positive correlation between children’s physical fitness and their level of concentration, their health-related quality of life and their overall academic achievement, shows the study – which involved 3,285 girls and 3,248 boys aged 6 in 10 years.

Scientists say there is a tangible benefit to promoting children’s gross and fine motor skills at an early stage. “Elementary students with good physical shape and the ability to concentrate are more likely to make it to high school,” says Professor Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz, who studies preventive pediatrics in the Department of Sports and Health Sciences at the TUM.

“This means that it is all the more important to encourage the motor development of children at an early stage, as this can have a positive impact on the development of mental fitness,” adds Oberhoffer-Fritz.

Gross motor skills involve movements of the whole body and use the large stabilizing muscles of the torso, legs and arms. They are essential for children’s daily activities, such as sitting at the table or running on the playground. And they are the basis for self-care tasks such as dressing, where children must stand on one leg. to put on their pants without falling off.

You can promote skills such as climbing, kicking and lifting to help your children’s gross motor skills. Structured physical activity – or a combination of structured and unstructured physical activity – is the most effective way to improve a child’s gross motor development, shows a 2021 study in Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Fine motor skills involve the use and coordination of small muscles in areas like the hands, wrists and eyes. They influence the quality the result of a task, as well as the speed at which it is executed.

You can set tasks involving precise movement like coloring, crafts and using building blocks to encourage the development of fine motor skills in children. In addition to the obvious benefits for muscle control, it facilitates hand-eye coordination and the simultaneous use of different muscles.

Encourage activity

When it comes to effectively stimulating a child’s fine motor development, a activity works best. That means all those hours of messy play with glitter, poster paints and Lego bricks with a toddler is contributing to their academic success years later.

Sports activity can also have a different impact on the sexes. Physically fit boys score higher on general fitness tests, and fit girls score better on concentration and quality of life, the study found.

The results also highlight that body weight is a key predictor of children’s physical and emotional health. Overweight children performed significantly worse on all fitness tests — and lower self-esteem and general well-being — than underweight children and children with normal body weight.

These findings also have implications for local policy makers and parent-teacher associations. Oberhoffer-Fritz observes, “Collaboration between parents, schools, communities and sports clubs is very important when it comes to creating a full and appropriate range of opportunities.

Dr Thorsten Schulz, study team leader at TUM, says: “Based on the results of the study, the district administration office of Berchtesgadener Land has given all first-year pupils in the region a voucher for a one-year sports club membership. It’s a great example of how different stakeholders can work together and help motivate kids to be more active in sport. »

It is not yet known how the relationship between sports participation and factors such as concentration levels, health-related quality of life and overall academic achievement changes as children grow older. The research team plans to study these changes in the coming months.

But in the meantime, we rejoice that sending primary school children out to play ball – while the adults enjoy some quiet time – is an effective way to improve children’s academic achievement.

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Richard V. Johnson