Physical Activity, Fitness, Cognitive Function, and Academic Achievement in Children: A Systematic Review
Physical activity (PA) and fitness are increasingly receiving attention based on the potential role or their relationship in influencing cognitive function and academic achievement, particularly in school-age children. This paper reviews the published literature (1990-2014) that focused on cognition, learning, brain structure, and brain function (64 studies); and on standardised achievement test performance and concentration/attention (73 studies); with the objective of answering the following questions: (1) among children aged 5-13, do PA and physical fitness influence cognition, learning, brain structure, and brain function? (2) among children aged 5-13, do PA, physical education, and sports programs influence standardised achievement test performance and concentration/attention? The investigators note there are significant limitations in the evidence, including inconsistencies and effects of numerous elements of PA on cognition which remain to be explored, such as type, amount, frequency, and timing. And questions remain regarding how to best incorporate PA within schools (such as activity breaks versus active lessons in relation to improved academic achievement). However, despite limitations, the authors of this systematic review found evidence to suggest positive associations among PA, fitness, cognition, and academic achievement. They also found no indication that increases in PA negatively affect cognition or academic achievement, and that PA is important for growth and development and general health.