Using physical activity in the teaching of academic lessons is a new way of learning. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of an innovative physically active academic intervention (“Fit & Vaardig op School” [F&V]) on academic achievement of children.
Using physical activity to teach math and spelling lessons was studied in a cluster-randomized controlled trial. Participants were 499 children (mean age 8.1 years) from second- and third-grade classes of 12 elementary schools. At each school, a second- and third-grade class were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. The intervention group participated in F&V lessons for 2 years, 22 weeks per year, 3 times a week. The control group participated in regular classroom lessons. Children’s academic achievement was measured before the intervention started and after the first and second intervention years. Academic achievement was measured by 2 mathematics tests (speed and general math skills) and 2 language tests (reading and spelling).
After 2 years, multilevel analysis showed that children in the intervention group had significantly greater gains in mathematics speed test (P < .001; effect size [ES] 0.51), general mathematics (P < .001; ES 0.42), and spelling (P < .001; ES 0.45) scores. This equates to 4 months more learning gains in comparison with the control group. No differences were found on the reading test.
Physically active academic lessons significantly improved mathematics and spelling performance of elementary school children and are therefore a promising new way of teaching.