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Walking or biking to school and spending free time being active can lead to better academic performance and less burnout for students, according to a recent study. Plus, it could even increase how much kids enjoy school.

A recent study led by the University of Eastern Finland found that children who engage in “active school transport,” like walking home from school, and who spend some of their spare time being physically active have better school performance than their classmates who aren’t as active.

Over 34,000 secondary school students participated in the Finnish study, which was published in the European Journal of Public Health. Researchers learned that moderate to vigorous physical activity during a teen’s free time was found to have an even greater impact on academic performance, especially in math.

“The results regarding active school transport were particularly intriguing as researchers are increasingly interested in the health benefits of travel-related walking and cycling,” says Juuso Jussila, a doctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland. “Being physically active before school could, for example, enhance concentration in [the] classroom, explaining our observations.”

Even if your children aren’t athletes, you might see better results in school because of them walking, biking or riding their scooter to and from school, the study says.

Previous studies have led to similar findings about the importance of fitness for students, but most of those studies focused on college students and few accounted for getting to and from school for younger ones.

This study by the University of Eastern Finland is also unique in that it looked at burnout among students. In recent years, burnout has been a hot topic for parents and workers, but it’s also something that can affect kids and teens. In the study, physical activity was associated with lower odds of school burnout. And, physical activity during leisure time and active school transport were both associated with school enjoyment.

Leisure-time physical activity can be an effective way to disconnect from schoolwork and the potential stress related to it,” Jussila explains. “If we can increase the amount [of] leisure-time physical activity among youth, both learning and well-being benefits can be significant.”

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