Objective: The purpose of this review is to synthesize the scientific literature that has examined the association between school-based physical activity (including physical education) and academic performance (including indicators of cognitive skills and attitudes, academic behaviors, and academic achievement).
Method: Relevant research was identified through a search of nine electronic databases using both physical activity and academic-related search terms. Forty-three articles (reporting a total of 50 unique studies) met the inclusion criteria and were read, abstracted, and coded for this synthesis. Findings of the 50 studies were then summarized.
Results: Across all the studies, there were a total of 251 associations between physical activity and academic performance, representing measures of academic achievement, academic behavior, and cognitive skills and attitudes. Slightly more than half (50.5%) of all associations examined were positive, 48% were not significant, and 1.5% were negative. Examination of the findings by each physical activity context provides insights regarding specific relationships.
Conclusion: Results suggest physical activity is either positively related to academic performance or that there is not a demonstrated relationship between physical activity and academic performance. Results have important implications for both policy and schools.
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