Question: What effect does physical activity have on
Design: Critical review of the literature on physical activity and childhood
academic achievement from 1990 to September 2014.
Participants: School aged children between 6-12 years of age.
Intervention: Physical activity was defined as any bodily movement
produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure with
exercise considered as a subset of physical activity.
Outcome Measures: Academic outcome measures included standardized
tests (e.g. Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, The Standard Progressive
Matrices, The Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests,), grades from
academic classes (e.g. mathematics, science, English/language) and
psychometric cognitive tests.
Results: Of 170 potential articles, 10 studies with generally high
methodological quality (mean Downs and Black score of 74%: range 64%
to 82%: Krippendorff’s alpha=0.86) were evaluated. All 10 studies utilised
a diverse variety of physical interventions, with each modality resulting in
positive impacts towards children’s academic achievements.
Conclusion: Physical activity, delivered in different physical modalities,
both during and out of school hours had a favourable effect on academic
achievement and cognitive functioning and performance.
Key Practice Points:
• Increasing physical activity in the school environment can provide
positive effects on academic achievement and cognitive functioning in
• Investigating the links between physical activity and academic
achievement may help provide evidence for inclusion of increased
physical activity time in schools.
• Further exploration on dose and specificity of physical activity to provide
optimal cognitive and academic achievement outcomes for school-aged
children is warranted.