Yes, but not in and of itself (meaning, you don't just get "smarter" from exercise alone, it must be paired with learning activities).
What researchers have found, and schools have confirmed, in practice, is that vigorous exercise and the increased blood flow and other physiological effects that come with exercise make the brain more receptive to learning and better able to focus attention. Areas of the brain that are called upon to perform learning tasks are also stimulated by exercise.
Not so at Naperville Central High School west of Chicago. Here the kids who struggle with math and reading go to gym class first.
"What we're trying to do here is jump start their brain," says Paul Zientarski, chairman of the Physical Education Department at Naperville.
So the very first class of the day is physical education.
And at Naperville, exercise isn't confined to the gym. There are bikes and balls right in the classroom. Even in reading class, these kids are constantly on the move.
"Exercise, good fitness-based exercise, makes our brain more ready to learn," says John Ratey of the Harvard Medical School.
At the University of Illinois, Dr Charles Hillman's research shows that after a 30-minute stint on the treadmill, students actually do up to 10 percent better at provlem solving.
"It's good for attention, it's good for how fast individuals process information, and how they perform on cognitive tasks," says Hillman.
At Naperville, the test results are astounding.
Reading scores up nearly twice as much. Math scores up by a factor of 20.
ABC News - Bikes, Balls in Class: How Phys Ed Transformed One School