The effects of physical activity and physical fitness on children's achievement and cognitive outcomes: a meta-analysis

Res Q Exerc Sport. 2011 Sep;82(3):521-35. doi: 10.1080/02701367.2011.10599785.


It is common knowledge that physical activity leads to numerous health and psychological benefits. However; the relationship between children's physical activity and academic achievement has been debated in the literature. Some studies have found strong, positive relationships between physical activity and cognitive outcomes, while other studies have reported small, negative associations. This study was a comprehensive, quantitative synthesis of the literature, using a total of 59 studies from 1947 to 2009 for analysis. Results indicated a significant and positive effect of physical activity on children's achievement and cognitive outcomes, with aerobic exercise having the greatest effect. A number of moderator variables were also found to play a significant role in this relationship. Findings are discussed in light of improving children's academic performance and changing school-based policy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Motor Activity*
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Fitness*