Primary school children can concentrate better through sports – SWR knowledge

Physically fit elementary school children are more likely to take the leap to high school. This was the result of a study by the Technical University of Munich.

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If you play sports, you really can not go wrong. Sport makes you happy, sport keeps you healthy and sport makes you fit for school. It starts with the little ones: A study from the Technical University of Munich shows that sport improves the concentration of children in primary school. More than 6,500 students participated.

Are school performance and physical fitness in primary school students related?

The Munich study examined children’s ability to concentrate. This is just one component of what constitutes a child’s actual academic performance, explains sports and health researcher Dr. Torsten Schulz, who led the study. However, the study provides evidence that physical fitness is closely linked to concentration.

What does a high concentration ability mean?

Those who can concentrate better become less irritated by small distractions. As a rule, people with high concentration ability can stay longer on one thing or perform a short-term activity with greater concentration. Both were explicitly checked in the test procedure of the study.

Children with poor concentration skills are more easily distracted. This can also affect their academic performance.

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IMAGO / Westend61

Sports can determine your school career

The concentration ability of primary school students was observed over a period of five years. This enabled the researchers to understand the children’s schooling.

The result: Children with better fitness were more likely to end up in high school or middle school. Students with poorer physique went to high school, among other things.

A girl drives a wagon wheel in a sports hall.  (Photo: imago images, IMAGO / ITAR-TASS)

According to the Munich study, children with better fitness are more likely to go to a high school or middle school.

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Schulz emphasizes, however, that caution must be exercised when interpreting the causal link. For there are also other socio-economic factors that could play a role. For example, whether the parents can motivate the child to play sports and, if necessary, also support other academic achievements.

Schools should promote a culture of physical activity

The study was able to show a connection between the child’s condition and the choice of upper secondary school. And while the exact reasons for this connection leave room for speculation, the results of the study can certainly be used as an opportunity to encourage children and young people to engage in more sports and exercise, Schulz says.

He is in favor of not only promoting the sport, but also promoting a culture of movement in everyday life and at school – for example through active breaks between school hours. In addition, the children must have an average of three hours of sports in primary school.

Were children threatened by the “forced pause” during the corona pandemic?

Due to the closure, school children could no longer go to school for a long time and thus also missed sports lessons. In addition, sports clubs had to take a break on the spot, and at times children could not even meet privately in groups to play football. All of this suggests that children may have been less active during the pandemic. Does it have consequences for their ability to concentrate?

Students run laps in front of the schoolyard.  A teacher with a mask measures time.  (Photo: imago images, IMAGO / Hans Lucas)

During the corona pandemic, everyday life is limited. Many teachers tried to motivate children to play sports despite strict hygiene measures.

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IMAGO / Hans Lucas

Not necessarily, says Schulz, because there were also many opportunities to reorientate. Many teachers have made an effort to continue sports within the framework of the corona restrictions. Clubs offered activities online. Now that Corona measures have been relaxed, these compensatory options may even complement everyday sport in order to sustainably promote the concentration ability of children and young people through sport.

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