The Link Between Physical Activity and Better Academic Performance

Recently, I read an article in the newspaper that stated children are better at using technology then tying their shoes. It also said that children know how to use computer games better than riding bikes. Reading these statements, I can easily find them sad, but true. Having children growing up in this world of technology is both fascinating and challenging. Being in the technology field myself, the advances are exciting and can be life changing for many people. However, how do we balance physical activity and screen time? I always find that this balance can be challenging if you have children that love playing video games and enjoy their screen time, which is most children! Over the summer, balancing the screen time and physical activity outside can be even more challenging because of the increase in down time. I wanted to take a deeper look at the impact of sedentary time (including watching TV, playing video games, etc.) and the correlation on the impact of academics. Below is some interesting research that I found regarding this correlation.

In a research study titled, Physical activity and sedentary time in relation to academic achievement in children published in March 2016, the authors looked at physical activity in both boys and girls in Grades 1-3. The authors wanted to calculate the correlation between physical activity and its effect on reading and math performance in boys and girls. This was an interesting study, which found that “In boys, MVPA (moderate to vigorous physical activity) was directly and ST (sedentary activity) was inversely associated with reading fluency in Grade 1-3 and arithmetic skills in Grade 1. Higher levels of MVPA were also related to better reading comprehension in Grade 1. Most of the association of MVPA and ST with reading and arithmetic skills attenuated after mutual adjustment for MVPA and ST. Furthermore, boys with a combination of lower levels of MVPA and higher levels of ST had consistently poorer reading fluency and reading comprehension across grades 1-2 than other boys.” (Haapal, Vaisto, Linu, Westgate, Ekelund, Poikkeus, Brage, Lakka, March 2016).

In another research brief titled Active Education: Growing Evidence on Physical Activity and Academic Performance (January 2015), authors reviewed a variety of different research studies that found a link between increased physical activity and improved academic performance, enhanced attention and memory and improved brain health (which in turn can help academic performance). To check out this research brief, click here.

These results aren’t just important for typical children, but can be especially significant with those children who struggle academically and have deficits in working memory, such as ADHD. For children with ADHD, exercise isn’t just helpful, it has been shown to be vital for improved cognitive performance and more focused attention. To check out this article, click here. 

When looking at these studies, how much exercise is enough? How many minutes a day? Can we combine some screen time with physical activities?

I think those answers will vary across studies so it would be hard to determine an exact amount of time because of so many other varying factors. However, all of the studies state the various benefits to physical activity and how important it is for both your body and mind.


Castelli, Darla, Elizabeth Glowacki, Jeanne Barcelona, Hannah Calvert, and Jungyun Hwang.Active Education: Growing Evidence on Physical Activity and Academic Performance. Research Brief. N.p.: Active Living Research, 2015. Print.

Happala, Eero, Juuso Vaistro, Niina Lintu, Kate Westgage, Ulf Ekelund, Anna-Maija Poikkeus, Soren Brage, and Timo Lakka. “Physical Activity and Sedentary Time in Relation to Academic Achievement in Children.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, n.d. Web. 04 July 2017.




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