How to Combine Exercise with Learning

At first thought, learning and exercise do not seem to have much in common, but that’d be incorrect! There are actually many academic benefits of physical activity. If you’re wondering how physical activity affects understanding and how to combine exercise with learning, keep reading!

How Does Physical Activity Benefit Academic Performance?

Motor Skills:

  • Fine motor skills are strengthened with activities like monkey bars. Needing to hold onto bars and swinging between them strengthens fingers and arms. Building strong fingers helps students, especially young ones, develop their pencil grip and writing skills.
  • Gross motor skills become stronger with many sports like soccer, baseball/softball, and tennis to name a few. Dribbling a soccer ball accurately works legs and feet while singing a bat or tennis racket to hit a ball all which develop necessary physical movements and hand-eye coordination. Hand-eye coordination is essential for writing when picking up, placing, and moving the writing utensil.

Cognition and Memory:

  • Exercise increases the rate of blood flow which carries oxygen to the brain. Growing brain cells thrive in a well oxidized brain environment.
  • Certain hormones are released during physical activity which combat stress hormones. Possessing less stress provides a healthier mental state to focus on and retain knowledge during study.
  • According to an article by Harvard Health Publications, “the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.”

We can see that exercise prepares our brain for higher cognitive levels and sustains our memory, as well as develops motor skills. So how can your child combine studying with exercise?

What are Some Ways to Exercise While You Study?

Jump Spelling

  • Take vocabulary words your child is learning and have the child spell them aloud. For every letter the child says, he or she also has to jump or perform a jumping-jack. This activity can be customized to many different exercises like crunches or push-ups instead.


  • This activity is great for any subject or topic especially if there is more than one player. Every time a child gets an answer correct, he or she can shoot a basket. If there is more than one player, this can be a competition to see earns the most baskets. Dribbling and shooting basketballs work fine motor skills too! Fingers learn how to grip the ball so it doesn’t bounce away, and how to make the perfect shot! Children’s wrists are strengthened from shooting the basketball as well.

Hopscotch ArithmeticCombine Exercise with Learning hopscotch

  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division can be used for this game. Set up a normal hopscotch frame, but draw whatever math level appropriate numbers in the squares- it is better if the numbers aren’t in chronological order! Next, have your child hop to one square, then another, and then perform that math problem. For example, if playing with multiplication, and the numbers jumped on were 9 and 4, your child would solve 9 times 4.

Replace Chairs with Fitness Balls

  • This change is a great idea for older students who may be restricted to a desk because of the specific work they are doing, like writing a paper. Instead of sitting in a regular chair, switching to a fitness ball improves balance and tones core muscles. Students could even do legs lifts while on the ball for an extra exercise! When sitting for extended periods of time, be sure to take frequent breaks to walk and stretch. This not only gives your body a break from sitting, but gets blood flowing to refresh the brain!

By engaging in physical activity while studying or completing school work, students are not only strengthening and bettering their bodies, but their minds too!

What are ways you’ve combined study with exercise?

Author: Sarah B., Teacher and Writer at A Grade Ahead.

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