When it comes to exam preparation, scientists are in little doubt that heading out for a run helps focus the mind. Reams of evidence supports the theory that running boosts academic performance, the most recent published findings suggesting a run can help students retain information after they’ve been cramming for an exam.
According to researchers at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, running directly after revision has a direct effect on the ability to retain information, with runners remembering more after their exercise than before they went.
Now, another study conducted by Laurie Luscombe, a lifelong runner and member of Liverpool Harriers, has proven that a regular morning run has a significant positive influence on education performance at secondary school.
Together with Chris Webb, a member of Saddleworth Runners, Luscombe organises a pre-school running club called AM Mayhem at the Bluecoat School in Oldham where he teaches maths.
For seven years, a group of staff and students has met for the twice-weekly runs and, says Luscombe, “over the years many of the teaching staff have made informal comments about the attitude, focus and work ethic of students who attend the club”.
As such, Luscombe decided to investigate the effects rigorously in a study for a postgraduate degree at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Results suggested the runners achieved grades at GCSE mathematics that were stronger than the school results from the most recent academic year. Indeed, grades at the top end (grade A and grade A*) were roughly three times as common compared to the whole school and around five times as common as the national average.
In addition, 97% of the early morning runners made the expected progress from key stage two through to key stage four, compared with 84.7% of the school as a whole for the 2014/15 academic year.
“Even giving any potential bias of my involvement at the club, the results were surprising,” Luscombe says. “It’s a club with an open door policy that is not traditionally viewed as having the higher-attaining students academically in attendance, but a huge variety of ages and abilities.
“We are out there in the darkness and often the pouring rain and mud at 7am.”
This article was first published in Athletics Weekly. For more of the latest running and athletics news, plus performance features and much more, grab a copy of the magazine or check out www.athleticsweekly.com