The importance of physical activity and motor skills competence for learning

In Swedish

Ingegerd Ericsson
Department of Sport Sciences, Malmö University

Recommendations for children’s physical activity usually focus on quantitative aspects of physical activity and health-related physical fitness components. Since the importance of fundamental movement skills is often overlooked, the purpose of this article has been to present current knowledge about the effects of physical activity and motor training on learning and school performance. Search for relevant research studies and meta analyses has been done in the databases Education Research Complete, ERIC via Ebsco, Google Scholar, Libsearch, MEDLINE, PUBMED, PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus, Summons and Research Gate. The main findings show that cognition is grounded in perceptual-motor experiences in social contexts and that sensorimotor activities can facilitate the readiness to learn and perform at school. Moderate levels of physical activity seem to have the greatest significance for cognitive performance, while high levels (intensive exercise) appear to impair cognitive ability. Weight training or muscle strength has not been shown to have any effect on cognitive functions, either for children or for adolescents. Motor screening is a valuable tool for identifying children in need of support in motor development. Motor skills observations can be recommended to increase the ability to offer specially adapted support to children who need it, in order to promote motor and cognitive development as well as motivation to participate in physical activities. Research results clearly show that daily scheduled physical education and adapted MUGI training can affect both motor skills and school performance as well as qualifications to higher education positively. In addition, the investment can be economically profitable for society. Cooperation between school and sports associations focused on motor skills and joy in movement for all students has proven to be successful. Regular balance and coordination training is recommended at all ages.

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INGEGERD ERICSSON is an associate professor in Sport Sciences at Malmö University, educated PE teacher at GIH in Stockholm and educated teacher in special needs education in Malmö. After doctoral studies in pedagogy at Lund University the doctoral dissertation Motor skills, attention and scholastic performance was published (in Swedish) in 2003. Ericsson started the MUGI project in Lund in the 1980s and the MUGI observation checklist was developed to identify children in need of extra motor support. The MUGI model for motor training has been successfully used, for instance in. the Bunkeflo project – a health-promoting lifestyle. Ericsson has published several scientific articles and textbooks in pedagogy/motor skills, for example Vi leker och tränar grovmotorik, MUGI Motoriklek och RÖR DIG – LÄR DIG, see

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