A study published in the the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports shows that sedentary lifestyle can impair a child’s academic performance. An international team of scientists reveals that six- to eight-year-old boys who live sedentary lives may suffer poorer reading skills in the first three years of their schooling.

“Low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and high levels of sedentary time in Grade 1 were related to better reading skills in Grades 1-3 among boys. We also observed that boys who had a combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the poorest reading skills through Grades 1-3,” added Eero Haapala from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä.

The study involved testing the reading and arithmetic skills of 153 children aged between six and eight years who are currently enrolled in Grades 1-3 of the primary school.  The research team, which also included the University of Cambridge, also observed the children’s physical activity and sedentary time.

To test the Grade 1 pupils’ physical activity and sedentary time, the researchers used a combined heart rate and movement sensor. All of the study participants were given standardized tests to determine their reading and arithmetic skills.

The research team found that high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity as well as low levels of sedentary time are associated with better reading skills. This combination is even more apparent in Grade 1 pupils.

Moreover, Grade 1 boys with high levels of physical activity and low levels of sedentary time also have better arithmetic skills. However, good reading or arithmetic skills were inconsistent with high physical activity and low sedentary time in Grade 1 girls.

Overall, the findings show that high amount of sedentary time and low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can negatively affect academic skill development in boys. The research team suggests that a physically active lifestyle must be promoted in these children for their academic achievements.