Classroom-Based Physical Activity, Cognition, and Academic Achievement

Donnelly J, Lambourne K
June 1, 2011

DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.01.021

Abstract: There is increasing evidence for the association between physical activity, cardiovascular fitness, fatness, and cognitive function during childhood and adolescence. Evidence also suggests that these variables are linked to academic achievement. Classroom-based physical activity provides a viable approach to improve fitness, body mass index (BMI), cognitive function, and ultimately academic achievement. Studies examining the relation between physical activity, fitness, fatness, cognitive function, and academic achievement are described. The results of a large-scale, longitudinal, cluster randomized trial to examine the impact of classroom based physical activity on body mass index and academic achievement will be presented. Overall, the data support the link between physical activity, cognitive function, and academic achievement. The role of physical activity in the classroom was also supported by the Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC) project. Physically active academic lessons of moderate intensity improved overall performance on a standardized test of academic achievement by 6% compared to a decrease of 1% for controls (p<0.02). Body mass index increased less from baseline to 3 years in students with greater than 75 minutes of PAAC lessons per week (1.8 BMI) compared to students with less than 75 minutes of PAAC per week (2.4 BMI), p<0.00. Future research examining the effects of physically active academic instruction is warranted. The impact of physically active academic lessons of greater intensity may provide larger benefits for body mass index and academic achievement.

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