The evidence for including physical activity in a school’s curriculum is accumulating as research links students’ cognitive performance with markers of physical fitness, such as aerobic capacity and body mass index. Rather than cutting back on recess time, encouraging kids to exercise seems to help them tap more of their academic potential. Research continues to find that exercise actually fosters the formation of new connections between brain cells.

The cognitive benefits of small-scale movements, such as building with blocks, are well known. More recent research has uncovered an additional link, a link between more energetic physical activity and the intellect of children. As researchers have examined the results of more recent studies, they have found that higher levels of aerobic fitness are often associated with better performance on both standardized tests and classroom tests. Furthermore, the connection between being physically fit and getting good grades holds true for kids in elementary school through college.

Could it be that more involved parents rather than physical fitness is accounting for the differences in academic abilities? To clarify whether exercise is a determining factor in reasoning abilities, the researchers added athletics to the already established routines of children. Then they assessed the impact on the young subjects’ learning, memory, and ability to focus.

From the results, the study team concluded that getting kids to move more can hone intelligence, strengthen the skills of creativity and planning, and improve performance in the areas of math and reading. Incorporating up to an hour a day of physical activity in a school’s curriculum often improves students’ school performance rather than detracting from it, despite the hour taken away from reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Most children like to move their bodies, so all parents and teachers need to do is offer them some time—or several times—during their day to get some physical exercise. Physical education builds the brain and the body.