Does Exercise Make Me More Intelligent At School?


Over a decade ago I while exercising in a popular gym in central London I noticed a trend. The people who had better physical movement where also leaner and more muscular. What Americans would call jocks. The sporty fit looking type that are admired for their six pack more than their brain cells. The opposite end of the spectrum, were under muscular men with large stomachs and often dangerously pour coordination. The type that looked like they were going to break their backs or glasses doing a bicep curl. Often this opposite avatar would have an air of academic intelligence about them that didn’t transfer to the physical world. The type that would find a proper lunge more perplexing than the theory of relativity.

At the time, I put it down to a strengthening of natural skills. The old brain vs brawn and after being around these types of characters for two decades I have often been guilty of repeating the phrase ‘meat heads’ when referring to the physically fitter among us. But, is this true. Are the fitter among us less intelligent than the academic underfit counter parts?

In schools all around the world physical exercise isn’t as important as academic studies, learning the foundations of math, science, literature and the like are seen to be fundamental for development and when it comes to physical exercise it is mostly designed around sporting activities instead of fitness itself.

Back in 2004 a revolutionary programme had been put together in Idaho state district. They had started to teach fitness to kids by getting them to run a mile every morning. It was their belief at the time that exercise increases academic performance. Literally, if the children exercise in the morning they would be more mentally ready to learn. At the time this concept was considered quite foolish. Many schools where decreasing the amount of physical exercise and investing in more time working on the academic subjects. Of course this makes sense right? The more time you put in to what you are doing the better the return.

But, is this actually true?

Well, it turns out that it’s not. A study done by (find study in spark) found that increasing hours on a subject didn’t translate to better grades.

(Open mouth emoji?!!)

Yes, all of those sleepless nights of extra revision you out in likely didn’t account for much in extra grades. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news… but, it's not all bad. However,  as studies show that when children increase physical activity they actually improve their grades. Now, of course you may be thinking, why then is it that those joke type meat heads aren’t the brighter light bulbs in the house? The truth is, exercise doesn’t make you a genius, in fact it just helps you to improve your own natural abilities so you are better able to perform mentally when you perform physically.

The rise of the daily mile:

There has been a shift from sports to physical fitness with the rise of the morning mile and other such revolutionary programme, schools are becoming more and more aware of the need to ensure their children are fitter too. But, how exactly does this exercise help kids? Great question my friend.

When you exercise especially aerobic exercise your body sends more oxygen around your body and to your brain to better fuel it to be awake and ready for mental alertness. Also, exercise has been linked to creating connections between nerve cells and neurons for improved cognitive function as well as the beautiful effect of happy hormones like dopamine that improve motivation, noradrenaline that increases brain activity and serotonin that improves mood. These hormones and transmitters mixed with improve oxygen flow to your brain caused by this morning exercise lead to better mental alertness and may even increase learning and memory with a key protein.

It’s like Miracle growth for the brain

John J. Ratey - Author of spark

This protein is called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF for short and according to such experts is capable and responsible for improving memory and learning by a very impressive 20%. Imagine learning a language 20 faster, that means every 5 days you would be a whole extra day ahead. After 100 days you would have learnt like it was 120 days and on and on. The best part is it isn’t just about language, whether you are accessing math, English or science,  this little natural protein will aid your mental performance.



How shall we move forwards for our children? In truth we have been teaching our kids to brush their teeth every morning, to avoid tooth decay and have fresh breath and clean looking teeth. But, we haven’t been teaching our children to start their day with movement and exercise. Think about it like this, if we teach our kids to integrate fitness into their lives every single day we will be impacting their futures massively with:

  1. Better grades
  2. Healthier weight
  3. Stronger muscles and bones
  4. Decreasing risk of diabetes
  5. Lowering risks of cancer
  6. Improving their confidence
  7. Enhancing their sporting performance abilities
  8. Balanced moods
  9. More motivation
  10. Less likely to suffer from depression.

This all may seem like bold claims and indeed they are. But each and every statement above is backed by studies that show, when you exercise, these are just a few of the positive effects that will take place for you and your children.



So, here are 6 tips to get you started on encouraging your children into healthier bodies and brains everyday:

  1. Start every day with a small distance run or jog. Keep the distance short but, even if its up and down the garden 5 times or around the block that’s all it needs.
  2. Do 2 minutes of jumping jacks – as long as you get your heart rate up you will benefit from the exercise in the same way as a traditional workout.
  3. Let them play. Plan more morning activities with kids in the playground or park before school.
  4. Set your kids a task to create 10 minutes of exercise every morning and create a reward system to enable them to stick to it.
  5. Encourage your school to integrate exercise into the children’s morning routine like the Morning Mile.
  6. Try our free 7 minute mornings workouts on us below; it’s great for kids and parents alike and just a great way to start the day! Or encourage your school to sign up for FREE!

You see, when you teach your children how to integrate fitness into their mornings they will be improving their health, performance, fitness, minds and even emotional and mental wellbeing, which in turn will lead to a healthier and happier adult. So, parents, carers and teachers alike, let’s do this together for our children and please share any tips on how we can make our kids fitter every day.

Healthy Regards,

Anthony Delamare – Co-Founder of 7 Minute Mornings

Please share this post if you believe in our mission to make children around the world fitter and healthier and hopefully more intelligent

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