A quick run in place during math class may be all students need to master long division, and a few jumping jacks could sharpen kids' vocabularies. That's all that it may take, a study finds. According to the study, teachers and schools hoping to improve students' test scores should consider jump-starting students in class. Literally. Students who exercise while in class do better academically than students who do not get to combine schoolwork with physical activity. They are likely to be better behaved, too.

Schools started looking into making exercise part of lesson time as a way to increase activity levels among students without reducing teaching time. Many schools have had to reduce recess and gym classes. Researchers analyzed the results of 42 studies of class-based exercise programs around the world and found that when kids were active in class, academic achievement went up.

Eight- and nine-year-olds traveled the world by running on the spot and answering questions relating to different countries.

Data from the studies covered over 12,500 students from age three to 14, with nearly half of the studies taking place in the United States and the rest conducted in Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, China, Croatia, Ireland, Israel, Portugal and Sweden.

“Physical activity is good for children's health, and the biggest contributor of sedentary time in children's lives is the seven or eight hours a day they spend in classrooms,” researcher, Emma Norris, said in a statement. “Our study shows that physically active lessons are a useful addition to the curriculum. They can create a memorable learning experience, helping children to learn more effectively.”

“Teachers can easily incorporate these physical active lessons in the existing curriculum to improve the learning experience of students,” added co-author Tommy van Steen.

In one of the studies, eight- and nine-year-olds traveled the world by running on the spot and answering questions relating to different countries. Students who were more active were more focused on the task than peers in a control group and followed teachers' instructions more closely, Norris, a professor at University College London, found.

Children in the Netherlands who took part in physically active lessons three times a week over two years made significantly better progress in spelling and mathematics than their peers who were not given the option to exercise. The team, which included researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands, National University of Singapore and the University of Sydney, estimated the academic gains of children who were physically active in class to be equal to four months of extra learning.

The study is published in Child Development.