Sport Participation and Academic Performance in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2022 Feb 1;54(2):299-306. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002786.


Introduction: Physical activity can improve academic performance; however, much less is known about the specific association between sport participation and academic performance, and this evidence has not been synthesized. Our aim was to systematically review and combine via meta-analyses evidence of the association between sport participation and academic performance in children and adolescents.

Methods: We conducted searches of five electronic databases using sport and academic performance related terms. We combined evidence from eligible studies using a structural equation modeling approach to multilevel meta-analysis.

Results: From 115 eligible studies, most of which had a high risk of bias (k = 87), we meta-analyzed 298 effect sizes. Overall, sport participation had a small positive effect on academic performance (d = 0.26, 95% confidence interval = 0.09, 0.42). Moderator analyses indicated that sports participation was most beneficial for academic performance when it was at a moderate dose (i.e., 1-2 h·wk-1), compared with no sport or a high dose of sport (3+ h·wk-1).

Conclusions: Sports participation during school hours was more beneficial for academic performance compared with sport participation outside school hours. Based on mostly low-quality studies, we found some evidence that sport could positively affect academic performance in children and adolescents. It appears that sport participation of a moderate dose and at school could be used to promote academic performance. However, if this field were to inform policy, high-quality studies are needed that provide insight into the effect of dose and sport characteristics on academic performance.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Youth Sports / psychology*