More physical activity improved school performance

The scientists…at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have tested the hypothesis that increased physical activity stimulates learning and improves school performance.

In the study, published in the scientific periodical “Journal of School Health,” 408 twelve-year-olds in the Gothenburg region were given two hours of extra play and motion activities per week, in collaboration with a local sports club. This was approximately twice the normal amount of curricular physical activity.

The effect of the intervention was evaluated by comparing the achievement of national learning goals by the children four years before and five years after its implementation. The results were compared to control groups in three schools that did not receive extra physical activity.

The results are clear, according to the scientists: A larger proportion on students in the intervention school did achieve the national learning goals in all subjects examined — Swedish, English and mathematics compared to the control groups.

“You can express it that two hours of extra physical education each week doubled the odds that a pupil achieves the national learning goals. We did not see a corresponding improvement in the control schools, where the pupils did not receive extra physical activity — rather the contrary, a deterioration,” says scientist and neurologist Thomas Linden at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

“Our hope is that planners and policy-makers will take our results into consideration,” says Lina Bunketorp Käll the researcher and project leader of the study.

Guess what? In Sweden that might actually happen.

In a parallel effort, a planned 5-story elementary school was changed to a 4-story school as built. Instead the building was constructed around an atrium for exercise and dance with running tracks on the rooftop. In China.

You’re born a copy but die an original

The older we get, the more different we become. This is the conclusion of a study that followed people from their 70th to their 90th year of life.

‘Old people are usually thought of as a rather homogenous group – they are considered to be ill, lonely and unable to take care of themselves. But the truth is that the differences among people grow with age,’ says Bo G Eriksson, University of Gothenburg.

As part of his doctoral thesis, Eriksson studied participants of the extensive and unique so-called H-70 study, which is based on a group of randomly selected individuals born in 1901 and 1902 who were followed closely over their entire lifetimes. Eriksson’s study focuses on the period from their 70th to their 90th year of life. It turns out that people become more and more different as they age.

‘The perception of old people having similar interests, values and lifestyles can lead to age discrimination. However, I found that, as people age, these stereotypes become more and more untrue,’ says Eriksson.

Eriksson also studied differences in causes of death with increasing age, and again found indications of possible age discrimination.
Eriksson explored how social conditions can affect longevity, and found four mechanisms at work. The first two relate to creation of social facts.

Examples of social facts include promises and agreements that strengthen the identities of individuals. The third mechanism relates to how a person builds and maintains self esteem by successfully responding to challenges. The fourth mechanism consists of everyday conversations, which decrease anxiety and offer support in everyday decision making, improves attention and gives the brain and the memory a healthy workout.

Eriksson concludes that the sum of these mechanisms – each operating in a positive fashion – “contribute to increased everyday activity – which has some beneficial physical effects”.

I hope.