The researchers made use of data from the Children of the 90s study conducted between 1991 and 1992 and which tracked the long term health of around 14,000 children born in the UK. Around 5,000 children were selected for the new study with the researchers recording the duration and intensity of the children's daily physical activity levels when they were 11 years of age.
They found that on an average, the boys exercised for 29 minutes in a day while girls exercised for 18 minutes, well below the recommended limit of 60 minutes. The researchers then compared the amount of exercise done by the children when they were 13 and 16 years old and also recorded their academic performance. On calculating how the academic performance improved with increased minutes of exercise, the researchers found that an extra 17 minutes of exercise by boys improved their academic performance by a quarter of a grade while it was 12 minutes in girls.
"This is an important finding, especially in light of the current UK and European Commission policy aimed at increasing the number of females in science subject. If moderate to vigorous physical activity does influence academic attainment this has implications for public health and education policy by providing schools and parents with a potentially important stake in meaningful and sustained increases in physical activity", the researchers wrote in their report, which has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.