Playing sports can be an excellent way to improve overall fitness and health, yet there’s many more advantages to being part of a team. In particular, participating in group sporting activities can have huge benefits for children and young people, with numerous studies highlighting a link between involvement in sports and improved academic performance.
But exactly why is this? And just what are the academic benefits of team sports? In this article, we delve into the link between concentration, grades and organised sports.
Focus and Information Processing
One study by academics at Northwestern University analysed brain activity in relation to noise. The study concluded that athletes are better able to zone out background noise when compared to less athletic individuals. Those conducting the study believe this is because competitive athletes must learn to differentiate background noise from the voice of their coach(es) or teammate(s). The result: A healthier nervous system that allows athletes to isolate and process information more effectively—a skill that could translate to better grades.
Improves Long-Term Memory
According to experts at Brigham Young University, physical activity is crucial to memory. In fact, exercising encourages the brain to form new pathways, boosting our ability to learn, form new memories and retain existing memories. Essentially, exercise boosts the brain’s capacity to absorb and store information. As such, playing sports could be vital in helping students learn and hang on to information, which is essential for exam success.
Increases Physical and Mental Energy
As stated on the Harvard website, exercise really does have the power to make us feel more energised. How? Because physical activity signals to our bodies that we need to create more energy, a process that involves the mitochondria in our cells making glucose. The more we exercise, the more our energy demand increases, and the more mitochondria and glucose we create. For students who participate in sports, this results in an increased energy supply, something that could help with focus.
Better Teamwork and Communication
While exams require individual study, students are often required to work together to complete a graded project. In these instances, teamwork and communication are key—both of which can be improved by involvement in sports. For example, how many rugby union team members or football teammates you communicate with teaches collaboration, compromise and the ability to work together to achieve a common goal. These skills are also vital in academic group work.
The bottom line
No matter which sport you choose, it’s clear that physical activity can offer real benefits to students. From better communication and energy to improved memory and focus, there are definitive links between physical activity and academic success.