Researchers are to investigate whether following a set of systematic movements for 10 minutes a day in class can boost pupils' results.
The Primary Movement project involves getting nine-year-olds to do set exercises to nursery rhymes and will be tested in 40 schools in north-east England.
The exercises mimic the earliest reflexes made by babies and foetuses.
The theory is that children can be held back if such reflexes persist.
Trisha Saul from the Primary Movement project said: "Some of the songs and the nursery rhymes will be familiar, it's the movements that are different.
"These are designed to replicate movements the foetus makes in the womb and the baby makes in the first six months of their life."
'Into a butterfly'
She explained how such reflexes become inhibited in most children within the first year of life. But if they persist it is thought they can prevent the child from being able move normally or concentrate as well as their peers.
Research undertaken at Queen's University, Belfast, in 2000 suggests that following a specially designed exercise programme can boost children's results by allowing their central nervous system to mature.
The small scale little known research project found that children who carried out systematic physical exercises for a year gained 15-20 months progress in reading compared to a control group which did not do the exercises.
Ms Saul added: "Teachers may notice some pupils in the classroom as being disruptive or slow or a bit clumsy, but after they have done the primary movement training they are able to see that they are slightly different, there may be something in the way they move."
"It's a bit like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but the butterfly still has bits of the caterpillar attached to it."
Two sets of 20 schools have been selected to take part in the programme; one to carry out the movements for two years from September 2012 and the other to be the control group.
The children will take a series of standardised reading and numeracy tests at the beginning and at the end of the project to assess its impact.
The project is one of six to have won a grant from the government-funded £125m Education Endowment Fund.
Other projects include a study looking at how teaching assistants can be used more effectively and work on how teachers can best narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the fund, said: "This is an incredibly exciting group of projects that have the potential to boost the results of children from poorer backgrounds.
"Too many children still leave school without basic numeracy and literacy skills which is a national disgrace.
"All these projects will be rigorously evaluated and if they prove effective scaled up so that they have a much wider impact."