Healthy Body = Good Math Grades

No joke: “A healthy body leads to a healthy mind”. More than just a ploy to get kids out from behind screen time, science actually backs this claim up. Researchers at University of Illinois have found a link between physically fit 9- and 10-year olds and higher math achievement.

The Study

Researchers put a bunch of kids on a treadmill and then selected a group who measured aerobically fit at the top 30%, as well as the bottom 30%. The 2 groups of kids then had MRIs done to measure the thickness of the grey matter in their cerebellums. Finally, the kids tested with the Wide Range Achievement Test to see how well they were doing in reading, writing, and math.

Kids who were in the top third for aerobic physical fitness were found to have the thinnest gray matter in their brain. This is a good thing. As children grow, the gray matter in their brain naturally thins during the elementary-age years. [Think of it as pruning back a rose bush. You trim away unnecessary branches and the bush blooms with more actual flowers.]

Thinner amounts of gray matter in the frontal, temporal (around the ears) and occipital (in the back of the head) lobes were already known to be associated with better thinking and reasoning skills. In this study, the physically fit kids – the ones with less gray matter – were also the ones who scored higher in math achievement. No differences were found for reading or spelling.

Running out to sign your kid up for soccer will not guarantee A’s on their next math test. You can, however, build in aerobic exercises throughout your day. According to the Mayo Clinic, ten-minutes at a time, a few times a day is enough to get some benefit from the movement. Not only will it get your heart and lungs pumping, it will also release endorphins – those natural feel-good chemicals our brains reward us with when we exercise.

Here’s a list of aerobic exercises you can easily fit into your kid’ day. Chances are, you’re already doing some of these things.

  • House cleaning – yeah, give the kid a duster and see who can finish a room first
  • Dancing to music
  • Jumping rope
  • Playing tag
  • Jumping jacks
  • Tumbling and doing cartwheels
  • Hula hooping
  • Shooting basketball hoops
  • Playing tether ball
  • Catching running football passes
  • Running up the stairs
  • Brisk walking
  • Hiking
  • Walking through snow
  • Bike riding
  • Skateboarding
  • Rollerblading
  • Mowing the grass
  • Raking leaves
  • Shoveling snow

How are you fitting aerobic exercise into your day?



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.