Research

You’re intrigued…but you want to know what the science says about the evidenced outcomes.  This page offers a compilation of research about physical activity or fitness and its association with learning, behavior, and indicators of academic performance.  Article titles are listed, followed by the abstracts that detail the study and results.  Studies are sectioned by those specific to the classroom, and other relevant research, and organized by date published.


SECTION 1: Classroom-specific Research


2017 Articles

Effects of different doses and types of classroom-based physical activity breaks on cognition

  • Emerging research supports the efficacy of classroom-based physical activity (PA) breaks on various aspects of cognition. Previous studies have manipulated the dose of PA (i.e., 5, 10, and 20min, Howie et al., 2015) and type of PA, ranging from more traditional forms of PA to cognitively engaging PA (Schmidt et al., 2016). Cognitively engaging PA requires a degree of mental effort and has been shown to be superior to traditional forms of PA for improving cognition.
  • The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of different doses and types of classroom-based PA on cognition in a single study. Participants (N = 116, Mage = 12±0.98) completed two batteries of cognitive tests (Stroop task, Trail Making Test, Forward Working Memory, and 1-minute Math test) separated by either a teacher-led PA break or regular classroom work (control participants). The PA break consisted of 5, 10, or 20 minutes of traditional classroom-based PA (e.g., jumping jacks, squats) or cognitively engaging PA (i.e., solved math problems alongside PA).
  • Results showed that the PA conditions improved on all aspects of cognition when compared to controls (ps > .05). Importantly, improvements were mediated by higher self-efficacy and changes in positive affect and intrinsic motivation following the PA breaks. However, there were no differences in cognitive improvements between the PA conditions with regards to type or dose of PA.
  • Findings have implications for classroom-based PA breaks and suggest that even 5 minutes of PA can increase aspects of cognition associated with learning and academic achievement.
  • Graham, J., Bremer, E., & Cairney, J. (2017). Effects of different doses and types of classroom-based physical activity breaks on cognition. Journal of Exercise, Movement, and Sport, 49(1), 171. Retrieved from http://www.scapps.org/jems/index.php/1/article/view/1669

Movement integration in elementary classrooms: Teacher perceptions and implications for program planning

  • HIGHLIGHTS: Elementary classroom teachers’ perceptions of movement integration to increase children’s physical activity were examined. Twelve first through third grade teachers across four schools participated in individual, semi-structured interviews. Findings centered on challenges/barriers, current and ideal resources, current implementation processes, and ideas and tips. This study provides important information for planning movement integration programs that are sensitive to teachers’ needs.
  • ABSTRACT: Movement integration (MI), which involves infusing physical activity (PA) into regular classroom time in schools, is widely recommended to help children meet the national guideline of 60min of PA each day. Understanding the perspective of elementary classroom teachers (ECTs) toward MI is critical to program planning for interventions/professional development. This study examined the MI perceptions of ECTs in order to inform the design and implementation of a school-based pilot program that focused in part on increasing children’s PA through MI. Twelve ECTs (Grades 1–3) from four schools were selected to participate based on their responses to a survey about their use of MI. Based on the idea that MI programming should be designed with particular attention to teachers who integrate relatively few movement opportunities in their classrooms, the intent was to select the teacher who reported integrating movement the least at her/his respective grade level at each school. However, not all of these teachers agreed to participate in the study. The final sample included two groups of ECTs, including eight lowest integrating teachers and four additional teachers. Each ECT participated in an interview during the semester before the pilot program was implemented. Through qualitative analysis of the interview transcripts, four themes emerged: (a) challenges and barriers (e.g., lack of time), (b) current and ideal resources (e.g., school support), (c) current implementation processes (e.g., scheduling MI into daily routines), and (e) teachers’ ideas and tips for MI (e.g., stick with it and learn as you go). The themes were supported by data from both groups of teachers. This study’s findings can inform future efforts to increase movement opportunities for children during regular classroom time.
  • CITATION: Webster, C. A., Zarrett, N., Cook, B. S., Egan, C., Nesbitt, D., & Weaver, R. G. (2017). Movement integration in elementary classrooms: Teacher perceptions and implications for program planning. Evaluation and Program Planning, 611, 34-143. doi:10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2016.12.011

Physical activity and academic achievement across the curriculum: Results from a 3-year cluster-randomized trial

  • ABSTRACT: We compared changes in academic achievement across 3 years between children in elementary schools receiving the Academic Achievement and Physical Activity Across the Curriculum intervention (A + PAAC), in which classroom teachers were trained to deliver academic lessons using moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) compared to a non-intervention control. Elementary schools in eastern Kansas (n = 17) were cluster randomized to A + PAAC (N = 9, target ≥ 100 min/week) or control (N = 8). Academic achievement (math, reading, spelling) was assessed using the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-Third Edition (WIAT-III) in a sample of children (A + PAAC = 316, Control = 268) in grades 2 and 3 at baseline (Fall 2011) and repeated each spring across 3 years. On average 55 min/week of A + PACC lessons were delivered each week across the intervention. Baseline WIAT-III scores (math, reading, spelling) were significantly higher in students in A + PAAC compared with control schools and improved in both groups across 3 years. However, linear mixed modeling, accounting for baseline between group differences in WIAT-III scores, ethnicity, family income, and cardiovascular fitness, found no significant impact of A + PAAC on any of the academic achievement outcomes as determined by non-significant group by time interactions. A + PAAC neither diminished or improved academic achievement across 3-years in elementary school children compared with controls. Our target of 100 min/week of active lessons was not achieved; however, students attending A + PAAC schools received an additional 55 min/week of MVPA which may be associated with both physical and mental health benefits, without a reduction in time devoted to academic instruction.
  • CITATION: Donnelly, J. E., Hillman, C. H., Greene, J. L., Hansen, D. M., Gibson, C. A., Sullivan, D. K., … Washburn, R. A. (2017). Physical activity and academic achievement across the curriculum: Results from a 3-year cluster-randomized trial. Preventive Medicine, 99(Supplement C), 140–145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.02.006

Effect of active lessons on physical activity, academic, and health outcomes: A systematic review

  • PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review of classroom-based physical activity interventions that integrate academic content and assess the effectiveness of the interventions on physical activity, learning, facilitators of learning, and health outcomes.
  • METHOD: Six electronic databases (ERIC, PubMed, Google Scholar, Science Direct, Cochrane Library, and EMBASE) and reference lists were searched for English-language articles, published January 1990 through March 2015, reporting classroom-based interventions that deliberately taught academic content using physically active teaching methods for at least 1 week duration, with physical activity, health, learning, or facilitators-of-learning outcomes. Two authors reviewed full-text articles. Data were extracted onto an Excel spreadsheet, and authors were contacted to confirm accuracy of the information presented.
  • RESULTS: Fifteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Six studies reporting on physical activity levels were found to have medium-to-large effect sizes. All 4 studies reporting learning outcomes showed positive effects of intervention lessons. Teachers and students were pleased with the programs, and enhanced on-task behavior was identified (n = 3). Positive effects were also reported on students’ body mass index levels (n = 3).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Physically active academic lessons increase physical activity levels and may benefit learning and health outcomes. Both students and teachers positively received and enjoyed these teaching methods. These findings emphasize the need for such interventions to contribute toward public health policy.
  • CITATION: Martin, R., & Murtagh, E. M. (2017). Effect of active lessons on physical activity, academic, and health outcomes: A systematic review. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 88(2), 149–168. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2017.1294244

Gender-specific effects on physical activity on children’s academic performance: The Active Smarter Kids cluster randomized controlled trial

  • Active learning combines academic content with physical activity (PA) to increase child PA and academic performance, but the impact of active learning is mixed. It may be that this is a moderated relationship in which active learning is beneficial for only some children. This paper examine the impact of baseline academic performance and gender as moderators for the effects of active learning on children’s academic performance. In the ASK-study, 1129 fifth-graders from 57 Norwegian elementary schools were randomized by school to intervention or control in a physical activity intervention between November 2014 and June 2015. Academic performance in numeracy, reading, and English was measured and a composite score was calculated. Children were split into low, middle and high academic performing tertiles. 3-way-interactions for group (intervention, control)∗gender (boys, girls)∗academic performance (tertiles) were investigated using mixed model regression.
  • There was a significant, 3-way-interaction (p=0.044). Both boys (ES=0.11) and girls (ES=0.18) in the low performing tertile had a similar beneficial trend. In contrast, middle (ES=0.03) and high performing boys (ES=0.09) responded with small beneficial trends, while middle (ES=-0.11) and high performing girls (ES=-0.06) responded with negative trends. ASK was associated with a significant increase in academic performance for low performing children. It is likely that active learning benefited children most in need of adapted education but it may have a null or negative effect for those girls who are already performing well in the sedentary classroom. Differences in gendered responses are discussed as a possible explanation for these results.
  • Resaland, G. K., Moe, V. F., Bartholomew, J. B., Andersen, L. B., McKay, H. A., Anderssen, S. A., & Aadland, E. (2017). Gender-specific effects of physical activity on children’s academic performance: The Active Smarter Kids cluster randomized controlled trial. Preventive Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.10.034

Effect of classroom-based physical activity interventions on academic and physical activity outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Background: Physical activity is associated with many physical and mental health benefits, however many children do not meet the national physical activity guidelines. While schools provide an ideal setting to promote children’s physical activity, adding physical activity to the school day can be difficult given time constraints often imposed by competing key learning areas. Classroom-based physical activity may provide an opportunity to increase school-based physical activity while concurrently improving academic-related outcomes. The primary aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the impact of classroom-based physical activity interventions on academic-related outcomes. A secondary aim was to evaluate the impact of these lessons on physical activity levels over the study duration.
  • Methods: A systematic search of electronic databases (PubMed, ERIC, SPORTDiscus, PsycINFO) was performed in January 2016 and updated in January 2017. Studies that investigated the association between classroom-based physical activity interventions and academic-related outcomes in primary (elementary) school-aged children were included. Meta-analyses were conducted in Review Manager, with effect sizes calculated separately for each outcome assessed.
  • Results: Thirty-nine articles met the inclusion criteria for the review, and 16 provided sufficient data and appropriate design for inclusion in the meta-analyses. Studies investigated a range of academic-related outcomes including classroom behaviour (e.g. on-task behaviour), cognitive functions (e.g. executive function), and academic achievement (e.g. standardised test scores). Results of the meta-analyses showed classroom-based physical activity had a positive effect on improving on-task and reducing off-task classroom behaviour (standardised mean difference = 0.60 (95% CI: 0.20,1.00)), and led to improvements in academic achievement when a progress monitoring tool was used (standardised mean difference = 1.03 (95% CI: 0.22,1.84)). However, no effect was found for cognitive functions (standardised mean difference = 0.33 (95% CI: -0.11,0.77)) or physical activity (standardised mean difference = 0.40 (95% CI: -1.15,0.95)).
  • Conclusions: Results suggest classroom-based physical activity may have a positive impact on academic-related outcomes. However, it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions due to the level of heterogeneity in intervention components and academic-related outcomes assessed. Future studies should consider the intervention period when selecting academic-related outcome measures, and use an objective measure of physical activity to determine intervention fidelity and effects on overall physical activity levels.
  • CITATION: Watson, A., Timperio, A., Brown, H., Best, K., & Hesketh, K. D. (2017). Effect of classroom-based physical activity interventions on academic and physical activity outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14, 114. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0569-9

Impact of 3 years of classroom physical activity bouts on time-on-task behavior

  • Participation in classroom physical activity (PA) may improve time-on-task (TOT), however, the influence of sustained moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) on TOT is unknown.
  • PURPOSE: To explore the influence of classroom PA delivered with academic lessons on TOT, determine if the relationship between classroom PA and TOT differs by age, sex, race/ethnicity, weight or baseline fitness, and identify the influence of MVPA on TOT when controlling for demographic variables.
  • METHODS: Teachers in intervention schools were asked to deliver two, 10-minute PA lessons/day, 5 days/week. PA was observed in both intervention and control schools to determine the amount and intensity of PA. TOT was observed prior to and immediately following PA. Anthropometrics and fitness were assessed at baseline and end of the school year for 3 years. Multilevel modeling was utilized to estimate overall group difference, change over the study, and group difference in change while accounting for covariates.
  • RESULTS: Students who participated in PA lessons engaged in significantly more MVPA than those in the control schools in all three years (all p<.001). There was a significant linear increase in the percent of TOT before PA lessons for both control and intervention groups over the 3-year period (p<.001), with no group difference. The intervention group spent significantly more TOT (p=.01) following PA than the control group. The percent of time spent in MVPA was significantly associated with the percent of TOT (p<.01).
  • CONCLUSION: Results indicate that children who received PA lessons participated in significantly more MVPA than those who did not and that PA was significantly associated with more TOT. These findings provide support for classroom PA as a means of increasing TOT in elementary aged children.
  • CITATION: Szabo-Reed, A. N., Willis, E. A., Lee, J., Hillman, C. H., Washburn, R. A., & Donnelly, J. E. (2017). Impact of 3 years of classroom physical activity bouts on time-on-task behavior. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001346

Classroom-based physical activity: Minimizing disparities in school-day physical activity among elementary school students

  • BACKGROUND: Evidence of the positive effects of school physical activity (PA) interventions, including classroom-based PA (CBPA), is rapidly growing. However, few studies examine how variations in scheduled PA opportunities and teacher-implemented CBPA affect students’ PA outcomes.
  • METHODS: Teachers at five elementary schools attended training on how to implement CBPA. Data on school day PA opportunities (physical education [PE], recess, CBPA) were obtained via calendar and teacher-recorded CBPA logs. Daily step counts were measured via accelerometry in 1,346 students across 65 classrooms in first through fifth grades.
  • RESULTS: PE, recess, and CBPA contributed significantly to students’ daily steps. Males accrued more steps than females over the school day, during PE, and during recess. No gender disparity was seen in the amount of additional steps accrued during CBPA. Overall step counts were lower among fifth grade students versus first grade students, but CBPA attenuated this difference such that grade level differences were not significant in fifth grade students who received CBPA.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Gender disparities in step totals were present on PE and recess days, but not on CBPA days. CBPA appears to provide equal PA benefits for both genders, and to potentially minimize the decline in PA among older students.
  • CITATION: Calvert, H. G., Mahar, M. T., Flay, B., & Turner, L. (2017). Classroom-based physical activity: Minimizing disparities in school-da physical activity among elementary school students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 1–26. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2017-0323

Effects of physical activity and breaks on mathematics engagement in adolescents

  • OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to determine whether physical activity has a positive relationship with school engagement regardless of the presence or absence of a recess or lunch break before the classroom lesson.
  • DESIGN: Data were collected over three ten-week periods: January–April 2014 (Time 1), October–December 2014 (Time 2), and April–June 2015 (Time 3).
  • METHODS: A cohort of 2194 adolescents (mean age = 13.40 years, SD = .73) wore an accelerometer during the hour before a mathematics lesson and completed a questionnaire following the mathematics lesson to assess school engagement in that lesson.
  • RESULTS: Linear mixed models indicated that moderate-intensity activity before a mathematics lesson had a positive linear relationship with cognitive engagement (β = .40, p < .05). Recess breaks before a mathematics lesson had a negative relationship with overall, behavioural, emotional, and cognitive engagement (β = −.18, p < .01, β = −.19, p < .01, β = −.13, p = .03, and β = −.13, p = .04, respectively).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Promoting moderate-intensity activity prior to mathematics lessons could improve students’ cognitive engagement. Educators should be aware that students tend to demonstrate the lowest levels of school engagement after recess breaks.
  • CITATION: Owen, K. B., Parker, P. D. Astell-Burt, T., & Lonsdale, C. (2017). Effects of physical activity and breaks on mathematics engagement in adolescents. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2017.07.002

“It’s a battle…you want to do it, but how will you get it done?”: Teachers’ and principals’ perceptions of implementing additional physical activity in school for academic performance

  • ABSTRACT: School is an ideal setting to promote and increase physical activity (PA) in children. However, implementation of school-based PA programmes seems difficult, in particular due to schools’ focus on academic performance and a lack of involvement of school staff in program development. The potential cognitive and academic benefits of PA might increase chances of successful implementation. Therefore, the aim of this qualitative study was: (1) to explore the perceptions of teachers and principals with regard to implementation of additional PA aimed at improving cognitive and academic performance, and (2) to identify characteristics of PA programmes that according to them are feasible in daily school practice. Twenty-six face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with primary school teachers (grades 5 and 6) and principals in The Netherlands, and analysed using inductive content analysis. Teachers and principals expressed their willingness to implement additional PA if it benefits learning. Time constraints appeared to be a major barrier, and strongly influenced participants’ perceptions of feasible PA programmes. Teachers and principals emphasised that additional PA needs to be short, executed in the classroom, and provided in “ready-to-use” materials, i.e., that require no or little preparation time (e.g., a movie clip). Future research is needed to strengthen the evidence on the effects of PA for academic purposes, and should examine the forms of PA that are both effective as well as feasible in the school setting.
  • CITATION: Van den Berg, V., Salimi, R., de Groot, R. H. M., Jolles, J., Chinapaw, M. J. M., & Singh, A. S. (2017). “It’s a battle…you want to do it, but how will you get it done?”: Teachers’ and principals’ perceptions of implementing additional physical activity in school for academic performance. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(10), 1160. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14101160

Contextual factors related to implementation of classroom physical activity breaks

  • ABSTRACT: Brief structured physical activity in the classroom is effective for increasing student physical activity. The present study investigated the association between implementation-related contextual factors and intervention implementation after adoption of a structured classroom physical activity intervention. Six elementary-school districts adopted structured classroom physical activity programs in 2013–2014. Implementation contextual factors and intervention implementation (structured physical activity provided in past week or month, yes/no) were assessed using surveys of 337 classroom teachers from 24 schools. Mixed-effects models accounted for the nested design. Availability of resources (yes/no, ORs = 1.91–2.93) and implementation climate z-scores (ORs = 1.36–1.47) were consistently associated with implementation. Teacher-perceived classroom behavior benefits (OR = 1.29) but not student enjoyment or health benefits, and time (OR = 2.32) and academic (OR = 1.63) barriers but not student cooperation barriers were associated with implementation (all z-scores). Four implementation contextual factor composites had an additive association with implementation (OR = 1.64 for each additional favorable composite). Training and technical assistance alone may not support a large proportion of teachers to implement structured classroom physical activity. In addition to lack of time and interference with academic lessons, school climate related to whether administrators and other teachers were supportive of the intervention were key factors explaining whether teachers implemented the intervention. Evidence-based implementation strategies are needed for effectively communicating the benefits of classroom physical activity on student behavior and improving teacher and administrator climate/attitudes around classroom physical activity.
  • CITATION: Carlson, J. A., Engelberg, J. K., Cain, K. L., Conway, T. L., Geremia, C., Bonilla, E., … Sallis, J. F. (2017). Contextual factors related to implementation of classroom physical activity breaks. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13142-017-0509-x

Does increased physical activity in school affect children’s executive function and aerobic fitness?

  • ABSTRACT: This study seeks to explore whether increased PA in school affects children’s executive function and aerobic fitness. The “Active school” study was a 10-month randomized controlled trial. The sample included 449 children (10-11 years old) in five intervention and four control schools. The weekly interventions were 2×45 minutes physically active academic lessons, 5×10 minutes physically active breaks, and 5×10 minutes physically active homework. Aerobic fitness was measured using a 10-minute interval running test. Executive function was tested using four cognitive tests (Stroop, verbal fluency, digit span, and Trail Making). A composite score for executive function was computed and used in analyses. Mixed ANCOVA repeated measures were performed to analyze changes in scores for aerobic fitness and executive function. Analysis showed a tendency for a time×group interaction on executive function, but the results were non-significant F(1, 344)=3.64, P=.057. There was no significant time×group interaction for aerobic fitness. Results indicate that increased physical activity in school might improve children’s executive function, even without improvement in aerobic fitness, but a longer intervention period may be required to find significant effects.
  • CITATION: Kvalø, S. E., Bru, E., Brønnick, K., & Dyrstad, S. M. (2017). Does increased physical activity in school affect children’s executive function and aerobic fitness? Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12856

The effects of physical activity interventions on children’s cognition and metacognition: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • OBJECTIVE: The objective was twofold: to assess the effect of physical activity (PA) interventions on children’s and adolescents’ cognition and metacognition; and to determine the characteristics of individuals and PA programs that enhance the development of cognitive and metacognitive functions.
  • METHOD: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Web of Science, and PsycINFO databases from their inception to October 16, 2016. Intervention studies aimed at examining the exercise–cognition interaction at a developmental age were included in this systematic review and meta-analysis. Random-effects models were used to calculate pooled effect size (ES) values and their corresponding 95% CIs. Subgroup analyses were conducted to examine the effect of participants’ and PA programs’ characteristics.
  • RESULTS: A total of 36 studies were included in this systematic review and meta-analysis. Pooled ES estimations were as follows: nonexecutive cognitive functions 0.23 (95% CI = 0.09−0.37); core executive functions 0.20 (95% CI = 0.10−0.30), including working memory (0.14 [95% CI = 0.00−0.27]), selective attention−inhibition (0.26 [95% CI = 0.10−0.41]), and cognitive flexibility (0.11 [95% CI = −0.10 to 0.32]); and metacognition 0.23 (95% CI = 0.13−0.32), including higher-level executive functions (0.19 [95% CI = 0.06−0.31]) and cognitive life skills (0.30 [95% CI = 0.15−0.45]).
  • CONCLUSION: PA benefits several domains of cognition and metacognition in youth. Curricular physical education interventions and programs aimed at increasing daily PA seem to be the most effective.
  • CITATION: Álvarez-Bueno, C., Pesce, C., Cavero-Redondo, I., Sánchez-López, M., Martínez-Hortelano, J. A., & Martínez-Vizcaíno, V. (2017). The effects of physical activity interventions on children’s cognition and metacognition: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(9), 729-738. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2017.06.012

The effects of physical activity on learning behaviors in elementary school children: a randomized control trial

  • BACKGROUND: Research in education and developmental psychology indicates that behavioral engagement in learning is a critical predictor of children’s academic success. In an effort to improve academic achievement, school administrators are continually in search of methods to increase behavioral engagement. Previous research has indicated that classroom-based physical activity (PA) lessons have a positive impact on academic achievement. However, little research has been done in assessing the impact of such interventions on the behavioral engagement of students with learning behavior difficulties.
  • METHODS: This study assesses the impact of classroom-based PA on teacher-rated classroom behaviors of students with identified learning behavior difficulties. Two schools (one intervention, one control) participating in a larger, cluster-randomized trial provided scores on a teacher-administered classroom behavior scale. This scale was used to collect information on 15 characteristics identified as being essential to behavioral engagement. Participants included male and female students in second and third grade classrooms who were identified by their classroom teacher and school counselor as having difficulties with learning behaviors. Mixed linear modeling for repeated measures was used to examine the changes over time in the classroom behavior scores.
  • RESULTS: The intervention group showed significant improvement over time in classroom behavior while the control group showed no change or a slight degradation over time (i.e., group × time interaction, F[2132] = 4.52, p = 0.01).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Schools must meet the diverse needs of students today, including those who exhibit less than optimal learning behaviors. Combined with the evidence that PA is linked to several health and cognitive-behavior benefits, providing classroom-based PA that is incorporated within the curriculum provides common ground for all students to participate. It is a potential solution to increasing behavioral engagement, and in turn stimulating and enhancing learning.
  • CITATION: Harvey, S. P., Lambourne, K., Greene, J. L., Gibson, C. A., Lee, J., & Donnelly, J. E. (2017). The effects of physical activity on learning behaviors in elementary school children: a randomized control trial. Contemporary School Psychology, 1-10. doi:10.1007/s40688-017-0143-0

Partnerships for Active Children in Elementary Schools: Outcomes of a 2-year pilot study to increase physical activity during the school day

  • PURPOSE: To evaluate the impact of the pilot study Partnerships for Active Children in Elementary Schools on the percentage of children achieving the Institute of Medicine guideline of 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during the school day.
  • DESIGN: Pre/multiple post-quasi-experimental. SETTING: Four elementary schools. PARTICIPANTS: Physical education (n = 3) and classroom teachers (n = 12) and students (n = 229). INTERVENTION: Partnerships for Active Children in Elementary Schools was a multicomponent, theory-driven intervention facilitated through school-university partnerships. Intervention approaches included communities of practice, community-based participatory research, and service learning. MEASURES: Accelerometer-derived percentage of children accumulating 30 minutes of MVPA during the school day. ANALYSIS: Multilevel mixed-effects regression estimated MVPA differences over time.
  • RESULTS: Compared to control, a 2.4% (95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.0% to 4.8%) and 8.8% (95% CI: -0.3% to 15.4%) increase in the percentage of time girls and boys engaged in MVPA during the school day was observed. The percentage of boys and girls in the intervention group achieving 30 minutes of MVPA/day increased from 57.5% to 70.7% and 35.4% to 56.9%, respectively. Boys and girls in the control group decreased from 61.5% to 56.4% and 52.6% to 41.9%, respectively. However, these changes did not reach statistical significance.
  • CONCLUSION: Partnerships for Active Children in Elementary Schools demonstrated meaningful impact on children’s MVPA during the school day by increasing boys’ and girls’ MVPA. However, additional strategies may be required to help schools achieve the Institute of Medicine guideline.
  • CITATION: Weaver, R. G., Webster, C. A., Egan, C., Campos, C. M. C., Michael, R. D., & Vazou, S. (2017). Partnerships for Active Children in Elementary Schools: Outcomes of a 2-year pilot study to increase physical activity during the school day. American Journal of Health Promotion. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117117707289

Intensity of commonly-reported classroom-based physical activity opportunities in public schools

  • ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to examine the intensity levels of PA opportunities offered in public school classrooms. Schools (N = 101) in school districts (N = 25) reported PA opportunities offered in classrooms using an online data collection tool over a two-year period (2014–2016). Using a randomized sampling technique, 20–30% of teachers in each school were selected each week to report PA in their classroom. These responses resulted in N = 18,210 usable responses. A researcher determined the intensity of PA opportunities using the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities as a guideline; two additional researchers confirmed the coded categories. A descriptive analysis of PA opportunities was conducted to describe the proportion of opportunities whose intensity levels were light (LPA), moderate (MPA), vigorous (VPA), sedentary (SED), and those of unknown intensity. Chi-square analyses were utilized to examine differences between proportions of intensity levels offered by semester. Kruskal-Wallace tests were utilized to examine differences in proportion of physical activity opportunity intensity offered by grade level. Most PA opportunities were MPA (58.7%), followed by VPA (17.6%) and LPA (11.5%). Few responses were SED (0.5%), and 11.6% were of indeterminate intensity. A greater proportion of more physically intense activities reported during the fall versus spring semesters (p < 0.0001). Differences in the intensity levels of PA offered by grade also differed, with a trend of decreasing intensity as grade level increased (p < 0.0001). This study provides insight into the PA actually occurring in classrooms; a previously underexplored construct of school-based PA.
  • CITATION: Behrens, T. K., Holeva, W. M., Carpenter, D., Tucker, E., Luna, C., Donovan, J., … Kelly, C. (2017). Intensity of commonly-reported classroom-based physical activity opportunities in public schools. Preventive Medicine Reports, 6(Supplement C), 157–161. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2017.02.025

Objectively measured sedentary behaviour and moderate and vigorous physical activity in different school subjects: a cross-sectional study

  • BACKGROUND: Evidence shows the positive influence of moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and negative influence of sedentary time on health and academic achievement. Although schools can significantly contribute to overall physical activity, little is known about MVPA and sedentary behaviour in different school subjects in different grades.
  • METHODS: Physical activity of 646 students from 18 schools (94 classes) and from three school stages (grades 1–9, aged 7–16) was measured with accelerometry for 5 school days. Time and proportion of MVPA and sedentary time, also average sedentary bout length was calculated for native language (Estonian), mathematics, science, foreign language, music and crafts lessons.
  • RESULTS: A total of 6363 lessons were measured, with lesson duration of 45 min. The average lesson time MVPA remained below 2.2 min in all school stages and in all subjects. Students in grades 4–6 had greatest decline in the proportion of lesson time MVPA in science (β = −1.9, 95%CI −3.1– -0.6) and music (−1.2, −2.1– -0.4) and in grades 7–9 in music (−1.7, −3.1– -0.3) lessons compared to grades 1–3. In grades 1–3 students spent on average 76% of lesson time (34.0 ± 7.0 min) as sedentary, whereas in grades 7–9 the average proportion of sedentary time was 87% (38.9 ± 5.7 min). An average sedentary bout length increased from 13 min in grades 1–3 to 20 min in grades 7–9. An increase in sedentary bout length from grades 1–3 compared to grades 7–9 was present in most subjects, except crafts, with smallest increase in foreign language (6 min, 3.5–8.9) and greatest in music lessons (16.6 min, 11.9–21.3). Lessons with prolonged sedentary bouts formed a maximum 36% of all lessons in grades 1–3 and 73% in grades 7–9.
  • CONCLUSION: The long sedentary time, bout length and low MVPA in most subjects were unfavourable in respect of both health and academic achievement. Significantly increasing sedentary time and sedentary bout length in older school stages highlights the need for interventions in all subjects and especially in older grades in order to combat the inactivity of children.
  • CITATION: Mooses, K., Mägi, K., Riso, E.-M., Kalma, M., Kaasik, P., & Kull, M. (2017). Objectively measured sedentary behaviour and moderate and vigorous physical activity in different school subjects: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 17, 108. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4046-9

They just need to move: Teachers’ perception of classroom physical activity breaks

  • ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to explore 1) perceptions of preschool-8th grade teachers’ in regard to classroom physical activity (PA) and 2) multiple levels of factors impacting preschool-8th grade teachers’ ability to implement PA into the classroom. Sixty preschool-8th grade teachers from five school districts participated in semi-structured interviews following a guide developed from constructs of the social ecological model. All teachers implemented classroom PA but had varied levels of confidence for implementation. Teachers identified barriers to implementation and requested additional classroom PA resources. Furthermore, they identified collaboration with other teachers as an underutilized resource for promotion of classroom PA.
  • CITATION: Dinkel, D., Schaffer, C., Snyder, K., & Lee, J. M. (2017). They just need to move: Teachers’ perception of classroom physical activity breaks. Teaching and Teacher Education, 63, 186–195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.12.020

2016 Articles

Active classrooms: A cluster randomised controlled trial evaluating the effects of a movement integration intervention on the physical activity levels of primary school children

  • DESIGN: A cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the ‘Active Classrooms’ intervention, which integrates movement into academic lessons, on the moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels (MVPA) of primary school children during classtime and throughout the school day.
  • METHODS: Ten classroom teachers and their students aged 8-12 years were recruited and randomized into the ‘Active Classrooms’ intervention group (n=131 students, n=5 teachers) or a delayed-treatment controlled group (n=117 students, n=5 teachers). The intervention group participated in active academic lessons taught by the classroom teacher over an 8 week period. Accelerometers were used to gather physical activity data at baseline, post-intervention and at 4 months follow-up. Teachers completed a questionnaire to evaluate the programme.
  • RESULTS: A significant difference for change in daily class time MVPA levels was identified between the treatment (n=95) and control (n=91) groups from pre- to post-intervention (p<.001) and this difference was maintained at follow-up (p<.001). No significant difference emerged between the treatment and control groups for change in school day MVPA levels from pre- to post-intervention (p=.52) or follow-up (p=.09). Teachers reported that they were highly satisfied with the programme.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Movement integration has the potential to improve physical activity levels of primary school children in the classroom.
  • CITATION: Martin, R., & Murtagh, E. (2016). Active classrooms: A cluster randomised controlled trial evaluating the effects of a movement integration intervention on the physical activity levels of primary school children. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 1–38. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2016-0358

Purposeful movement: The integration of physical activity into a mathematics unit

  • ABSTRACT: Classroom physical activity (PA) has been linked to a multitude of health and academic benefits. However, due to barriers such as lack of time and resources many teachers are not implementing classroom PA to the degree they would like to. One innovative solution is to integrate classroom PA into academic concepts. Based on self-determination theory, this pilot study evaluated the effectiveness of a teacher-developed purposeful movement teaching strategy on PA, on-task behavior and academic achievement. Two third grade classrooms participated in this pilot study, one acting as the comparison and the other working with the school Physical Education teacher to develop the active lessons. The evaluation consisted of accelerometers, direct observation, academic assessments and a write and draw activity to assess student perceptions. Significant improvements were found in steps achieved during math and on-task behavior. Findings reveal utilizing PA driven lessons is an effective teaching strategy.
  • CITATION: Snyder, K., Dinkel, D., Schaffer, C., Hiveley, S., & Colpitts, A. (2016). Purposeful movement: The integration of physical activity into a mathematics unit. International Journal of Research in Education and Science, 3(1), 75-87.

Virtual traveller: a behaviour change intervention to increase physical activity during primary school lessons

  • BACKGROUND: Children spend a large amount of their time in obligatory seated school lessons, with notable effects on health and cognitive outcomes. The ‘Virtual Traveller’ programme tests Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as physically active lessons and Behaviour Change interventions. These utilise existing classroom interactive whiteboards to integrate globe-based educational content with related physical movements. This study aimed to test the effects of a 6-week ‘Virtual Traveller’ intervention on health and educational outcomes in primary-school children.
  • METHODS: Design – A Randomised Controlled Trial compared pupils receiving the Virtual Traveller Intervention and waiting-list control. Participants – N=264 pupils from ten Year 4 classes (8-9 years old) provided usable data across all data collection points Measures – Data was collected before (T0), during (T1 & T2), 1 week- (T3) and 3 months- (T4) post intervention. Physical activity was assessed via Actigraph GT1M accelerometers, on-task behaviour was observed using the Observing Teachers and Pupils in Classrooms tool (OPTIC) tool and student engagement was assessed with the Student Engagement Instrument – Elementary Version (SEI-E) questionnaire. Analysis – Multilevel modelling was used to assess outcomes.
  • FINDINGS: Intervention pupils demonstrated significantly less sedentary behaviour and more light, moderate and vigorous physical activity and significantly better on-task behaviour during lessons (T1 & T2) than control pupils. No difference in outcomes was found at T4.
  • DISCUSSION: Virtual Traveller was successful at increasing classroom physical activity and on-task behaviour. Using the Behaviour Change Wheel and Behaviour Change Techniques allows development of replicable health interventions in applied settings such as schools.
  • CITATION: Norris, E., Shelton, N., Dunsmuir, S. Duke-Williams, O., & Starnatakis, E. (2016). Virtual traveller: a behaviour change intervention to increase physical activity during primary school lessons. European Health Psychologist, 18 (Supp.). Retrieved from http://www.ehps.net/ehp/index.php/contents/article/view/1909

A non-equivalent group pilot trial of a school-based physical activity and fitness intervention for 10–11 year old english children: Born to Move

  • BACKGROUND: PE lessons are the formal opportunity in schools for promotion of physical activity and fitness. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a pilot PE intervention on physical activity, fitness, and psychosocial outcomes.
  • METHODS: Participants were 139 children aged 10–11 years from four schools. For six weeks children in two schools received a twice-weekly pilot ‘Born to Move’ (BTM) physical activity (PA) and fitness intervention alongside one regular PE lesson. Children in the two comparison (COM) schools received their regular twice weekly PE lessons. Outcomes were lesson time and whole-day light (LPA), moderate (MPA), vigorous (VPA), and MVPA, and sedentary time, muscular fitness, cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), and lesson-specific perceived exertion, enjoyment, and perceived competence. Outcomes were assessed at baseline (T0), midway through the intervention (T1), and at the end (T2) using ANOVAs and ANCOVAs. Intervention fidelity was measured using child and teacher surveys at T2 and analysed using Chi-square tests.
  • RESULTS: The BTM group engaged in moderate PA for significantly more lesson time (29.4 %) than the COM group (25.8 %; p = .009, d = .53). The amount of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) during the T1 BTM lesson contributed 14.0 % to total MVPA, which was significantly more than the COM group’s T1 PE lesson (11.4 %; p < .001, d = .47). The BTM group were significantly more active during the whole-day (p < .05) and the school-day (p < .01). In both groups push-up test performance increased (p < .001) and CRF test performance decreased (p < .01). Perceived exertion, enjoyment, and perceived competence increased in both groups (p < .05), but the BTM group rated their enjoyment of the T1 BTM lesson higher than the COM group rated their PE lesson (p = .02, d = .56). The children’s and teachers’ responses to the intervention indicated that the delivery aims of enjoyment, engagement, inclusivity, and challenge were satisfied.
  • CONCLUSIONS: The BTM pilot programme has potential to positively impact on physical activity, fitness, and psychosocial outcomes. Further, BTM was enjoyed by the children, and valued by the teachers. This study can inform the design of a modified larger-scale cluster RCT evaluation.
  • CITATION: Fairclough, S. J., McGrane, B., Sanders, G., Taylor, S., Owen, M., & Curry, W. (2016). A non-equivalent group pilot trial of a school-based physical activity and fitness intervention for 10–11 year old english children: Born to move. BMC Public Health, 16, 1-14. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3550-7

Effects of physical activity on schoolchildren’s academic performance: The Active Smarter Kids (ASK) cluster-randomized controlled trial

  • OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of a seven-month, school-based cluster-randomized controlled trial on academic performance in 10-year-old children.
  • METHODS: In total, 1129 fifth-grade children from 57 elementary schools in Sogn og Fjordane County, Norway, were cluster-randomized by school either to the intervention group or to the control group. The children in the 28 intervention schools participated in a physical activity intervention between November 2014 and June 2015 consisting of three components: 1) 90 min/week of physically active educational lessons mainly carried out in the school playground; 2) 5 min/day of physical activity breaks during classroom lessons; 3) 10 min/day physical activity homework. Academic performance in numeracy, reading and English was measured using standardized Norwegian national tests. Physical activity was measured objectively by accelerometry.
  • RESULTS: We found no effect of the intervention on academic performance in primary analyses (standardized difference 0.01–0.06, p > 0.358). Subgroup analyses, however, revealed a favorable intervention effect for those who performed the poorest at baseline (lowest tertile) for numeracy (p = 0.005 for the subgroup ∗ group interaction), compared to controls (standardized difference 0.62, 95% CI 0.19–1.07).
  • CONCLUSIONS: This large, rigorously conducted cluster RCT in 10-year-old children supports the notion that there is still inadequate evidence to conclude that increased physical activity in school enhances academic achievement in all children. Still, combining physical activity and learning seems a viable model to stimulate learning in those academically weakest schoolchildren.
  • CITATION: Resaland, G. K., Aadland, E., Moe, V. F., Aadland, K. N., Skrede, T., Stavnsbo, M., … Anderssen, S. A. (2016). Effects of physical activity on schoolchildren’s academic performance: The Active Smarter Kids (ASK) cluster-randomized controlled trial. Preventative Medicine, 91, 322-328. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.09.005

Reach and implementation of physical activity breaks and active lessons in elementary school classrooms

  • ABSTRACT: The integration of physical activity into elementary school classrooms, through brief activity breaks (ABs) and lessons that incorporate movement into instruction as active lessons (ALs), are key parts of school physical activity programming and can improve children’s health and academic outcomes. With nationally representative survey data from 640 public elementary schools in the United States, we examined the use of these practices and the extent of implementation within classrooms. ALs were used in 71.7% of schools, and ABs were used in 75.6% of schools. In multivariate models, ALs were significantly less likely to be used in majority-Latino schools (adjusted odds ratio = 0.48, 95% confidence interval [0.25, 0.93], p < .05) than in predominantly White schools. ABs were significantly less likely to be used in lower socioeconomic schools (adjusted odds ratio = 0.57, 95% confidence interval [0.34, 0.95], p < .05) than in higher socioeconomic schools. At schools where ABs were ever used, they were used by 45.6% of teachers, but fewer teachers used them at larger schools (β = −.08, p < .01) and at lower socioeconomic schools (β = −.09, p < .05). The reach of ALs and ABs is modest and classroom-level implementation is quite low. Additional dissemination and support is warranted to improve the reach and implementation of these strategies in elementary schools. Such efforts could improve the school-day experience in ways that benefit millions of young children.
  • CITATION: Turner, L., & Chaloupka, F. J. (2016). Reach and implementation of physical activity breaks and active lessons in elementary school classrooms. Health Education Behavior, 44(3), 370-375. doi:10.1177/1090198116667714

Policies for promotion of physical activity and prevention of obesity in adolescence

  • ABSTRACT: Obesity rates among children and adolescents in developed countries have increased dramatically since the 1970s. During that same period, numerous secular changes have combined to reduce the demand for physical activity in day-to-day life, and many barriers to physical activity are now evident. As a consequence, most children and adolescents do not meet the accepted public health guidelines for physical activity. Accordingly, public health interventions are needed to increase physical activity in adolescence. Such interventions, if successfully implemented, can be expected to improve fitness and health as well as reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity in young people. Promotion of physical activity in populations of children and adolescents will require comprehensive strategic planning and adoption of new policies in multiple societal sectors. This paper highlights nine initiatives that can address the problem of physical activity in children. The initiatives are to: establish comprehensive school physical activity programming; demand high quality physical education; require physical activity in early child care and education; require physical activity in afterschool programs; create equity in community resources; activate youth sports programs; re-normalize active transport to school; institutionalize clinic-based physical activity assessment and counseling; and build activity-friendly homes. A case will be made for comprehensive national and international strategic planning aimed at effective and large-scale implementation of these initiatives and tactics.
  • CITATION: Pate, R. R., Flynn, J. I., & Dowda, M. (2016). Policies for promotion of physical activity and prevention of obesity in adolescence. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 14(2), 47-53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jesf.2016.07.003

Academic and psychosocial outcomes of a physical activity program with fourth graders: Variations among schools in six urban school districts

  • ABSTRACT: The purpose was to examine academic achievement, school attachment, and peer acceptance before and after a comprehensive school-based physical activity program (CSPAP) with 378 children in 12 fourth-grade classrooms across six schools in primarily low-socioeconomic status (SES) districts of a large Midwestern metropolitan area. Both personal and normative rate of academic achievement improvement metrics were used. Overall, all students showed personal math and reading growth. However, effects varied by types of achievement indicator and comparison group, revealing noteworthy school-level demographic and implementation characteristics that are inextricably intertwined with program effectiveness and student growth. Implications, especially for minimizing generalizations, are significant.
  • CITATION: Somers, C. L., Centeio, E. E., Kulik, N., Garn, A., Martin, J., Shen, B., … McCaughtry, N. A. (2016). Academic and psychosocial outcomes of a physical activity program with fourth graders: Variations among schools in six urban school districts. Urban Education. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0042085916668951

Do perceptions of classroom physical activity breaks vary by size of school district? (poster presentation)

  • BACKGROUND: Classroom physical activity (PA) breaks offers a way for schools to increase children’s PA, improve time on-task, and improve academic scores. Professional development, delivery methods, technology infrastructre, and opportunities for collaboration are included by school district size. These factors may impact teachers’ perceptions of instructional issues, inclucing PA. However, little is known on how the size of school districts may impact teachers’ perceptions of classroom PA.
  • PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to explore if teachers’ perceptions of classroom PA vary based on district size.
  • METHODS: Sixty teachers from five school districts (1 large public, 3 medium (2 public, 1 private), and 1 small public) took part in a semi-structured interview. Data were analyzed through the process of immersion/crystallizations.
  • RESULTS: There were a few key differences between districts. The largest district more often reported integrating PA into reading and writing while other districts most often incorporated PA into math. Additionally, the largest district most often incorporated classroom PA 1-2 times/day while other districts more frequently reported utilizing PA 3+ times/day. The medium-sized public districts were most likely to incorporate classroom PA during transitions between subjects and to utilize online video resources (e.g., GoNoodle) compared to other districts who were more likely to incorporate PA during instruction and incorporated more general movement (e.g., stretching). Interestingly, the smallest district reported the least amount of teacher collaboration in regards to discussing classroom PA with their colleagues.
  • CONCLUSION: Results provide evidence that teachers have positive views of classroom PA but there are differences on teachers’ perceptions of… (incomplete)
  • CITATION: Patterson, T., Snyder, K., Dinkel, D. M., Schaffer, C., & Lee, J-M. (2016). Do perceptions of classroom physical activity breaks vary by size of school district? Research Presentations, Paper 2. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=pahppresentations

Comparison of the effects of stable and dynamic furniture on physical activity and learning in children

  • ABSTRACT: We compared the effects of traditional (stable) and non-traditional (dynamic) school furniture on children’s physical activity (PA), energy expenditure (EE), information retention, and math skills. Participants were 12 students (8.3 years, 58 % boys) in grades 1–5. Participants wore an Actigraph GT3X+ accelerometer (to assess PA), and an Oxycon Mobile indirect calorimetry device (to assess EE) for 40 min (20 min for each session). Each session consisted of a nutrition lecture, multiple choice questions related to the lecture, and grade-appropriate math problems. We used paired t tests to examine differences between the stable and dynamic furniture conditions. Average activity counts were significantly greater in the dynamic than the stable furniture condition (40.82 vs. 9.81, p < 0.05). We found no significant differences between conditions for average oxygen uptake (p = 0.34), percentage of nutrition questions (p = 0.5), or math problems (p = 0.93) answered correctly. Movement was significantly greater in the dynamic than the stable furniture condition, and did not impede information acquisition or concentration. Future studies should compare the long-term effects of traditional and dynamic furniture on health and academic outcomes in schools and other settings.
  • CITATION: Garcia, J. M., Huang, T. T., Trowbridge, M., Weltman, A., & Sirard, J. R. (2016). Comparison of the effects of stable and dynamic furniture on physical activity and learning in children. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 37(6), 555-560. doi:10.1007/s10935-016-0451-6

Movement and learning: Integrating physical activity into the classroom

  • ABSTRACT: We know the benefits of physical activity, and yet recess and physical education classes are being cut or scaled back to make room for meeting academic standards. Is cutting recess and physical education really benefiting academics? A look at some recent studies suggests that it is not. Integrating physical activity into the classroom may increase learning and offset the decreasing physical education classes and recess.
  • CITATION: Reeves, E., Miller, S., & Chavez, C. (2016). Movement and learning: Integrating physical activity into the classroom. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 52(3), 116–120. https://doi.org/10.1080/00228958.2016.1191898

The effect of a classroom activity break on physical activity levels and adiposity in primary school children

  • AIM: Despite recognition that regular physical activity is essential for good health, many children do not accumulate sufficient daily physical activity. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of a classroom-based activity break on accelerometer-determined moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) and adiposity in primary school children.
  • METHODS: One hundred twenty children from seven primary schools in Northern Ireland participated in the study. In each school, one class of children was randomly assigned to an intervention group and another class to a control group. Teachers of the intervention classes led a 5-min activity break three times per day for 12 weeks. Accelerometer-determined MVPA, height, weight and four skinfolds were measured at baseline and post-intervention.
  • RESULTS: Compared with the control group, the intervention group significantly increased weekday MVPA (+9.5 min) from baseline to post-intervention. There were no significant changes in BMI; however, an increase in sum-of-skinfolds of the intervention group was observed.
  • CONCLUSIONSClassroom-based activity breaks led by the teacher are successful in increasing children’s physical activity levels. The programme shows a positive step in improving overall physical activity levels and contributing to the goal of 60 min daily MVPA.
  • CITATION: Drummy, C., Murtagh, E. M., McKee, D. P., Breslin, G., Davison, G. W., & Murphy, M. H. (2016). The effect of a classroom activity break on physical activity levels and adiposity in primary school children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 52(7), 745–749. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpc.13182

Energy expenditure and intensity of classroom physical activity in elementary school children

  • BACKGROUND: There is limited data regarding objectively measured energy cost and intensity of classroom instruction. Therefore, the purpose of current study was to objectively measure energy cost and subsequently calculate MET values using a portable indirect calorimeter (IC) for both normal classroom instruction (NCI) and active classroom instruction (ACI).
  • METHODS: We assessed energy expenditure (EE) and intensity levels (METs) in elementary school children (17 boys and 15 girls) using an IC (COSMED K4b2). Independent t-tests were used to evaluate potential sex and grade level differences for age, BMI, VO2, EE, and METs.
  • RESULTS: The average EE for NCI and ACI were 1.8 ± 0.4 and 3.9 ± 1.0, respectively. The average intensity level for NCI and ACI were 1.9 ± 0.4 and 4.2 ± 0.9 METs, respectively.
  • CONCLUSIONS: PA delivered through ACI can elicit EE at a moderate intensity level. These results provide evidence for [active classroom instruction] as a convenient/feasible avenue for increasing PA in youth without decreasing instruction time.
  • CITATION: Honas, J. J., Willis, E. A., Herrmann, S. D., Greene, J. L., Washburn, R. A., & Donnelly, J. E. (2016). Energy expenditure and intensity of classroom physical activity in elementary school children. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 13(6 Suppl 1), S53–S56. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2015-0717

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programming and classroom behavior

  • OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of a comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP) on classroom behavior in low-income children.
  • METHODS: The participants included 1460 children recruited from 3 low-income schools receiving governmental financial assistance. A total of 77 classrooms were observed across grades K through 6. Classrooms were observed one week prior to the implementation of CSPAP and at 6 weeks and 12 weeks after commencement of the program. Members of the research team observed classroom behavior using systematic observation, specifically a 5-second momentary time sampling procedure. A generalized linear mixed effects model was used to determine the change in odds of a classroom achieving at least 80% on-task behavior following the implementation of CSPAP.
  • RESULTS: There were 7.49 (95% CI: 2.83, 19.79) greater odds of a classroom achieving 80% on-task behavior at 6 weeks compared to baseline and a 27.93 (95% CI: 7.93, 98.29) greater odds of a classroom achieving 80% on-task behavior at 12 weeks compared to baseline (p < .001).
  • CONCLUSIONS: After the CSPAP was implemented, on-task classroom behavior significantly improved across all grade levels.
  • CITATION: Burns, R. D., Brusseau, T. A., Fu, Y., Myrer, R. S., & Hannon, J. C. (2016). Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programming and classroom behavior. American Journal of Health Behavior, 40(1), 100–107. https://doi.org/10.5993/AJHB.40.1.11

Effects of a TAKE 10! classroom-based physical activity intervention on third- to fifth-grade children’s on-task behavior

  • BACKGROUND: Prolonged sitting at desks during the school day without a break may result in off-task behavior in students. This study was designed to examine the effects of a classroom physical activity intervention, using TAKE 10!, on elementary school students’ on-task behavior. Nine classes (3rd to 5th grades) from 1 elementary school participated in the program (4-week baseline and 8-week intervention).
  • METHODS: The students’ on-task behavior was measured using systematic direct observation. Observations occurred once a week during weeks 1 to 4 (baseline) and weeks 8 to 12 (intervention). A two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to compare on-task behavior between observation periods.
  • RESULTS: There was a significant decrease (P = .001) in mean percentage on-task behavior from preno TAKE 10! (91.2 ± 3.4) to postno TAKE 10! (83.5 ± 4.0) during the baseline period, whereas there was a significant increase (P = .001) in mean percentage on-task behavior from pre-TAKE 10! (82.3 ± 4.5) to post-TAKE 10! (89.5 ± 2.7) during the intervention period.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Furthermore, students who received more daily TAKE 10! were found to be more on-task than students who received less TAKE 10!. The TAKE 10! program is effective in improving students’ on-task behavior in the classroom.
  • CITATION: Goh, T. L., Hannon, J., Webster, C., Podlog, L., & Newton, M. (2016). Effects of a TAKE 10! classroom-based physical activity intervention on third- to fifth-grade children’s on-task behavior. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 13(7), 712–718. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2015-0238

Classroom-based physical activity breaks and children’s attention: Cognitive engagement works!

  • BACKGROUND AND AIM: Classroom-based physical activity breaks are postulated to positively impact children’s attention during their school day. However, empirical evidence for this claim is scarce and the role of cognitive engagement in enhancing children’s attentional performance is unexplored in studies on physical activity breaks. The aim of the present study was therefore to disentangle the separate and/or combined effects of physical exertion and cognitive engagement induced by physical activity breaks on primary school children’s attention. In addition, the role of children’s affective reactions to acute interventions at school was investigated.
  • METHODS: Using a 2 × 2 between-subjects experimental design, 92 children between the ages of 11 and 12 years (M = 11.77, SD = 0.41) were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: (1) combo group (physical activity with high cognitive demands), (2) cognition group (sedentary with high cognitive demands), (3) physical group (physical activity with low cognitive demands), and (4) control group (sedentary with low cognitive demands). Attention and affect were measured before and immediately after a 10-min intervention.
  • RESULTS: ANCOVAs revealed that whereas physical exertion had no effect on any measure of children’s attentional performance, cognitive engagement was the crucial factor leading to increased focused attention and enhanced processing speed. Mediational analyses showed that changes in positive affect during the interventions mediated the effect between cognitive engagement and focused attention as well as between cognitive engagement and processing speed. These surprising results are discussed in the light of theories predicting both facilitating and deteriorative effects of positive affect on attention.
  • CITATION: Schmidt, M., Benzing, V., & Kamer, M. (2016). Classroom-based physical activity breaks and children’s attention: Cognitive engagement works! Developmental Psychology, 7, article 1474. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01474

2015 Articles

Acute effects of classroom exercise breaks on executive function and math performance: A dose-response study

  • PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the acute dose–response relationship of classroom exercise breaks with executive function and math performance in 9- to 12-year-old children by comparing 5-min, 10-min, or 20-min classroom exercise breaks to 10 min of sedentary classroom activity.
  • METHOD: This study used a within-subjects experimental design conducted in the spring of 2012. Ninety-six 4th- and 5th-grade students in 5 classrooms in South Carolina were randomized to receive each of 4 treatments: 5-min, 10-min, or 20-min exercise breaks or 10 min of a sedentary lesson led by research staff. Students completed the Trail-Making Test, an Operational Digit Recall test, and a math fluency test immediately before and after each condition. Planned linear contrasts were used to compare posttest scores between conditions using a repeated-measures mixed model, adjusted for gender, classroom, and the time-varying pretest scores. Potential effect modifiers were added as interaction terms.
  • RESULTSMath scores were higher after the 10-min and 20-min exercise breaks compared with the sedentary condition (d = 0.24,p = .04, andd = 0.27,p = .02, respectively), and an interaction was observed with gender, IQ, aerobic fitness, and lower engagement in some of the conditions. There were no improvements in executive function tasks.
  • CONCLUSIONS: A 10-min and 20-min classroom exercise break moderately improved math performance in students compared with a seated classroom lesson.
  • CITATION: Howie, E. K., Schatz, J., & Pate, R. R. (2015). Acute effects of classroom exercise breaks on executive function and math performance: A dose-response study. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 86(3), 217–224.

Standing up for learning: A pilot investigation on the neurocognitive benefits of stand-biased school desks

  • OVERVIEW: Standing desks have proven to be effective and viable solutions to combat sedentary behavior among children during the school day in studies around the world. However, little is known regarding the potential of such interventions on cognitive outcomes in children over time. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine the neurocognitive benefits, i.e., improvements in executive functioning and working memory, of stand-biased desks and explore any associated changes in frontal brain function. 34 freshman high school students were recruited for neurocognitive testing at two time points during the school year: (1) in the fall semester and (2) in the spring semester (after 27.57 (1.63) weeks of continued exposure). Executive function and working memory was evaluated using a computerized neurocognitive test battery, and brain activation patterns of the prefrontal cortex were obtained using functional near infrared spectroscopy. Continued utilization of the stand-biased desks was associated with significant improvements in executive function and working memory capabilities. Changes in corresponding brain activation patterns were also observed. These findings provide the first preliminary evidence on the neurocognitive benefits of standing desks, which to date have focused largely on energy expenditure. Findings obtained here can drive future research with larger samples and multiple schools, with comparison groups that may in turn implicate the importance of stand-biased desks, as simple environmental changes in classrooms, on enhancing children’s cognitive functioning that drive their cognitive development and impact educational outcomes.
  • CITATION: Mehta, R. K., Shortz, A. E., & Benden, M. E. (2015). Standing up for learning: A pilot investigation on the neurocognitive benefits of stand-biased school desks. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(1), 59. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13010059

Impact of California Children’s Power Play! campaign on fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity among fourth- and fifth-grade students

  • PURPOSE. Examine the impact of the Children’s Power Play! campaign on fruit and vegetable (FV) intake and physical activity (PA).
  • METHODS. Study design was a cluster randomized, controlled trial. Forty-four low-resource public schools in San Diego County, California, were included in the study. Study subjects comprised a total of 3463 fourth/fifth-graders (1571 intervention, 1892 control), with an 86.9% completion rate. Throughout 10 weeks, activities were conducted during/after school, including weekly FV/PA lessons and PA breaks; biweekly classroom promotions/taste tests; posters displayed in/around schools; and weekly nutrition materials for parents. Self-reported FV intake (cups/d) and PA (min/d) were collected at baseline and follow-up using a diary-assisted, 24-hour dietary recall and Self-Administered Physical Activity Checklist. Multivariate regression models adjusted for demographics and cluster design effects were used, with change as the dependent variable.
  • RESULTS. Intervention children, compared with controls, showed gains in daily FV intake (.26 cups, p < .001) and PA time at recess/lunch (5.1 minutes, p = .003), but not total daily PA minutes.
  • CONCLUSION. Power Play! can help schools and community organizations improve low-income children’s FV intake and PA during recess/lunch.
  • CITATION: Keihner, A., Rosen, N., Wakimoto, P., Goldstein, L., Sugerman, S., Hudes, M., … McDevitt, K. (2015). Impact of California Children’s Power Play! campaign on fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity among fourth- and fifth-grade students. American Journal of Health Promotion. In-press. doi:dx.doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.141125-ARB-592

Promoting physical activity in elementary schools: Needs assessment and a pilot study of Brain Breaks

  • OVERVIEW: A sedentary life style contributes to many chronic diseases and poor educational performance. Since elementary school-aged children spend most wakeful hours in school, classroom teachers are essential for providing physical activity (PA) breaks during school. As first objective, we assessed current PA levels for Oregon public elementary schools (379 schools responded) and learned that 92% of schools did not meet the physical education recommendation of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As second objective, we evaluated teacher’s preferences for increasing students’ PA levels with a cross-sectional anonymous mail survey (116 teachers responded) and learned that teachers were concerned about students’ PA levels (84%) and interested in incorporating short PA breaks into their classroom curriculum (88%). As third objective, a follow-up survey was mailed to teachers along with the exercise DVD “Brain Breaks: Classroom Fitness for Children” that provides 5-7 minute PA segments (43 teachers responded). Teachers perceived that Brain Breaks provided students a beneficial amount of PA (86%) and improved their concentration (91%); teachers intended to continue using Brain Breaks (91%).
  • In conclusion, short PA breaks during the school day is a promising method for promoting increased levels of PA in elementary schools.
  • CITATION: Perera, T., Frei, S., Frei, B., & Bobe, G. (2015). Promoting physical activity in elementary schools: Needs assessment and a pilot study of Brain Breaks. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(15), 55–64.

An intervention to improve the physical activity levels of children: Design and rationale of the ‘Active Classrooms’ cluster randomised controlled trial

  • BACKGROUND: Recent evidence demonstrates that children are not engaging in the recommended 60 min of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Physical activity (PA) interventions have been acknowledged by the WHO (2010) as a key strategy to increase the PA levels of children. School has been recognised as a primary location for reaching the majority of children and providing PA opportunities for them. However, the sedentary nature of lessons carried out in the classroom has been identified as a contributing factor to physical inactivity among this age group.
  • PURPOSE: The aim of this study is to develop and evaluate a classroom-based intervention which integrates PA and academic content, and evaluate its effects on the PA levels of children aged 8–11 in Ireland.
  • METHODS: Active Classrooms is an 8-week classroom based intervention guided by the behaviour change wheel (BCW) framework (Michie et al. 2011) that will be evaluated using a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT). Study measures will be taken at baseline, during the final week of the intervention and at follow-up after 4 months. The primary outcome is minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity during school time objectively assessed using accelerometers (Actigraph). Teachers’ perceptions on the effectiveness and use of the intervention and students’ enjoyment of the programme will be evaluated post intervention.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Changing teacher behaviour towards using physically active teaching methods may increase the moderate to vigorous physical activity levels of their students. Therefore, the results of this study may have important implications for the health of children both now and into the future.
  • CITATION: Martin, R., & Murtagh, E. M. (2015). An intervention to improve the physical activity levels of children: Design and rationale of the “Active Classrooms” cluster randomised controlled trial. Contemporary Clinical Trials, 41, 180–191. doi:10.1016/j.cct.2015.01.019

Physically active lessons as physical activity and educational interventions: A systematic review of methods and results

  • OBJECTIVE: Physically active lessons aim to increase children’s physical activity whilst maintaining academic time. This systematic review aimed to investigate the methods used in such interventions and their effects on physical activity and educational outcomes.
  • METHODS: In March 2014; PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO and ERIC electronic databases were searched. Inclusion criteria were: 1. Classroom lessons containing both PA and educational elements; 2. intervention studies featuring a control group or within-subjects baseline measurement period; 3. any age-group; and 4. English language. Studies assessing physically active lessons within complex interventions were excluded. Data were extracted onto a standardised form. Risk of bias was assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP) tool.
  • RESULTS: Eleven studies were identified: five examined physical activity outcomes only, three examined educational outcomes only and three examined both physical activity and educational outcomes. All studies found improved physical activity following physically active lessons: either in the whole intervention group or in specific demographics. Educational outcomes either significantly improved or were no different compared to inactive teaching. Studies ranged from low to high risk of bias.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Encouraging evidence of improved physical activity and educational outcomes following physically active lessons is provided. However, too few studies exist to draw firm conclusions. Future high-quality studies with longer intervention periods are warranted.
  • CITATION: Norris, E., Shelton, N., Dunsmuir, S., Duke-Williams, O., & Stamatakis, E. (2015). Physically active lessons as physical activity and educational interventions: A systematic review of methods and results. Preventive Medicine, 72, 116–125. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.12.027

2014 Articles

Smiles count but minutes matter: Responses to classroom exercise breaks

  • OBJECTIVES: To determine the subjective responses of teachers and students to classroom exercise breaks, and how responses varied by duration.
  • METHODS: This mixed-methods experimental study included focus groups with teachers (N = 8) and 4th- and 5th-grade students (N = 96). Students participated in 5-, 10-, and 20-minute exercise breaks and 10 minutes of sedentary activity. In an additional exploratory analysis, videotapes of each condition were coded and compared for positive affect.
  • RESULTS: Students and teachers discussed multiple benefits, but teachers discussed barriers to implementing regular breaks of 5-minutes or more. Students exhibited higher positive affect during each exer- cise condition.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Classroom exercise breaks are an enjoyable way to increase physical activity, but additional support may be needed to encourage teachers to implement breaks of 5 minutes or longer.
  • CITATION: Howie, E. K., Newman-Norlund, R. D., & Pate, R. R. (2014). Smiles count but minutes matter: Responses to classroom exercise breaks. American Journal of Health Behavior, 38(5), 681–689. doi:10.5993/AJHB.38.5.5

The impact of a physical activity intervention program on academic achievement in a Swedish elementary school setting

  • BACKGROUND: Despite the emerging body of research on the potential of physical activity to improve learning and academic achievement, conclusive evidence regarding the effects of physical activity on academic achievement is lacking. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of a physical activity intervention program on academic performance.
  • METHODS: A controlled cross-sectional design was used to investigate the hypothesis that the intervention program would increase the proportion of students in grade 5 who achieved the national learning goals in Swedish, mathematics, and English compared with 3 reference schools. Academic results from the years prior to and during the intervention program were analyzed. Logistic regression analyses assessed the odds of achieving the national learning goals when the intervention program was integrated into the elementary curricula.
  • RESULTS: Higher proportions of students in the intervention school achieved the national goals in all 3 subjects compared with the reference schools after initiation of the intervention program. The odds for achieving the national learning goals in the intervention school increased 2-fold (p < .05), whereas these odds either did not change or decreased in the reference schools.
  • CONCLUSION: Promoting physical activity in school by means of a curriculum-based intervention program may improve children’s educational outcome.
  • CITATION: Käll, L. B., Nilsson, M., & Lindén, T. (2014). The impact of a physical activity intervention program on academic achievement in a Swedish elementary school setting. Journal of School Health, 84(8), 473–480. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12179

A short physical activity break from cognitive tasks increases selective attention in primary school children aged 10–11

  • IMPORTANCE: Evidence for an acute effect of physical activity on cognitive performance within the school setting is limited. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into acute effects of a short physical activity bout on selective attention in primary school children, specifically in the school setting.
  • METHODS: Hundred and twenty three 10–11 years old children, 49.6% girls, engaged in four experimental breaks in random order: 1 hr of regular cognitive school tasks followed by a 15 min episode with the following conditions 1) ‘no break’ (continuing a cognitive task), 2) passive break (listening to a story), 3) moderate intensity physical activity break (jogging, passing, dribbling) and 4) vigorous intensity physical activity break (running, jumping, skipping). Selective attention in the classroom was assessed by the TEA-Ch test before and after the 15 min break in each condition.
  • RESULTS: After the passive break, the moderate intensity physical activity break and the vigorous intensity physical activity break attention scores were significantly better (p < 0.001) than after the ‘no break’ condition. Attention scores were best after the moderate intensity physical activity break (difference with no break = −59 s/target, 95% CI: −0.70; −0.49).
  • CONCLUSION: The results show a significant positive effect of both a passive break as well as a physical activity break on selective attention, with the largest effect of a moderate intensity physical activity break. This suggests that schools could implement a moderate intensity physical activity break during the school day to optimize attention levels and thereby improve school performance.
  • CITATION: Janssen, M., Chinapaw, M. J. M., Rauh, S. P., Toussaint, H. M., van Mechelen, W., & Verhagen, E. A. L. M. (2014). A short physical activity break from cognitive tasks increases selective attention in primary school children aged 10–11. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 7(3), 129–134. doi:10.1016/j.mhpa.2014.07.001

2013 Articles

Student academic performance outcomes of a classroom physical activity intervention: A pilot study

  • OVERVIEW: Physical activity is beneficial to children’s health, yet academic pressures limit opportunities for students throughout the school day. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of a classroom PA intervention on student academic performance outcomes. Intervention participants (n=15) received daily PA breaks. Reading and mathematics fluency, PA, grades, and standardized test scores were collected. Effects of the intervention were examined using mixed-design ANOVAs.
  • RESULTS: Intervention students had significantly higher reading fluency and mathematics scores post-intervention and higher means for standardized reading and mathematics scores as well as grades. Short bouts of PA are important for improving CBM math and reading fluency scores. Classroom teachers should be encouraged to devote time during academic learning to incorporate PA.
  • CITATION: Erwin, H., Fedewa, A., & Ahn, S. (2013). Student academic performance outcomes of a classroom physical activity intervention: A pilot study. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 5(2), 109–124.

The impact of a physical activity session on year two students’ subsequent classroom behaviour

  • OVERVIEW: The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a 30-minute physical activity (PA) session on Year Two students’ subsequent classroom behaviour. Forty-eight students from three Year Two classes at a NSW private school participated in the study. The number of disciplinary comments directed by the class teacher to individual students (Individual Disciplinary Corrections, IDC) and the class as a whole (General Disciplinary Corrections, GDC) were recorded during a 30-minute lesson with and without previous PA.
  • RESULTS: Subsequent to PA, there were 40% fewer IDCs (p=0.008) and 59% fewer GDCs (p=0.003), amounting to a 49% overall reduction in disciplinary corrections (p
= 0.012). The PA session had a positive effect
on the Year Two students’ classroom on-task behaviour, as measured by a reduction in disciplinary corrections directed by the class teacher.
  • CONCLUSION: These findings highlight the potential value of physical activity as a strategy for increasing student classroom on-task behaviour.
  • CITATION: Herman, W., Beer, C., & Morton, D. (2013). The impact of a physical activity session on year two students’ subsequent classroom behaviour. TEACH Journal of Christian Education, 7(1), Article 9.

Bizzy Break! The effect of a classroom- based activity break on in-school physical activity levels of primary school children

  • OVERVIEW: The school has been identified as a key setting to promote physical activity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a classroom-based activity break on in-school step counts of primary school children. Data for 90 children (49 boys, 41 girls, 9.3 ± 1.4 years) from three Irish primary schools is presented. In each school one class was randomly assigned as the intervention group and another as controls. Children’s step counts were measured for five consecutive days during school hours at baseline and follow-up. Teachers of the intervention classes led a 10 min activity break in the classroom each day (Bizzy Break!).
  • RESULTS: Mean daily in-school steps for the intervention at baseline and follow-up were 5351 and 5054. Corresponding values for the control group were 5469 and 4246. There was a significant difference in the change in daily steps from baseline to follow-up between groups (p < .05). There was no evidence that girls and boys responded differently to the intervention (p > .05). Children participating in a daily 10 min classroom-based activity break undertake more physical activity during school hours than controls.
  • CITATION: Murtagh, E., Mulvihill, M., & Markey, O. (2013). Bizzy Break! The effect of a classroom- based activity break on in-school physical activity levels of primary school children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 25(2), 300–307.

Elementary classroom teachers’ adoption of physical activity promotion in the context of a statewide policy: An innovation diffusion and socio-ecologic perspective

  • OVERVIEW: Physical activity promotion in the academic classroom (PAPAC) is an effective means for increasing children’s school-based physical activity. In the context of a South Carolina policy requiring elementary schools to provide children with 90 min of physical activity beyond physical education every week, the purpose of this study was to test a theoretical model of elementary classroom teachers’ (ECT) PAPAC adoption drawing from Rogers’ (1995) diffusion of innovations theory and a social ecological perspective. ECTs (N = 201) were assessed on their policy awareness, perceived school support for PAPAC, perceived attributes of PAPAC, domain-specific innovativeness, and self-reported PAPAC. Partial least squares analysis supported most of the hypothesized relationships. Policy awareness predicted perceived school support, which in turn predicted perceived attributes and domain-specific innovativeness. Perceived compatibility, simplicity, and observability, and domain-specific innovativeness predicted self-reported PAPAC. This study identifies variables that should be considered in policy-driven efforts to promote PAPAC adoption.
  • CITATION: Webster, C. A., Caputi, P., Perreault, M., Doan, R., Doutis, P., & Weaver, R. G. (2013). Elementary classroom teachers’ adoption of physical activity promotion in the context of a statewide policy: An innovation diffusion and socio-ecologic perspective. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 32, 419–440. https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.32.4.419

2012 Articles

Physical activity and academic achievement in children: A historical perspective

  • As the focus on academic achievement has increased, physical activity (PA) opportunities in schools have decreased in the United States. In an attempt to discover how the decline in PA may affect academic achievement, researchers have been studying the effects of PA on cognition and academic achievement in children for more than 50 years. This review takes a historical perspective on the science of PA and academic achievement prior to and during the past 5 years. A total of 125 published articles were included and reviewed. Fifty-three of these articles were published in the past 5 years. In recent years, the overall quality of the studies has increased, but the results continue to be inconsistent. Many use cross-sectional designs and the methods vary substantially.
  • The majority of conclusions show a positive effect of PA on constructs related to academic achievement. Future studies should use strong study designs to examine the types and doses of PA needed to produce improvements in academic achievement.
  • CITATION: Howie, E. K., & Pate, R. R. (2012). Physical activity and academic achievement in children: A historical perspective. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1(3), 160–169. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2012.09.003

Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation?

  • ABSTRACT: Integrating physical activity (PA) in the classroom is a promising avenue for youth to increase their PA levels and academic achievement. However, research on its role in children’s academic motivation is limited. Intrinsic motivation is important because it predicts both academic achievement and physical activity participation. The purpose was to examine the effect of PA integrated with academic lessons compared to traditional lessons on children’s academic motivation. A total of 147 4th to 6th grade students (64 male, 83 female) from 15 classes participated. The intervention included six consecutive lessons over a two-week period on an academic subject (Language Arts, Math, Social Studies), alternating between traditional (1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th; control) and integrated with PA (10 min) lessons in the classroom (3rd and 5th). The Intrinsic Motivation Inventory was used to assess students’ Interest/Enjoyment, Perceived Competence, Effort, Value, and Pressure. After checking for non-significant interactions with gender, age, and academic subject, repeated-measure ANOVAs were conducted. Interest/Enjoyment significantly decreased after the traditional lessons (4th and 6th, F = 3.80, F = 4.18, respectively, p < 0.05) and increased significantly after the second integrated lesson (5th, F = 7.26, p < 0.01). Perceived Competence and Effort significantly increased after the integrated lesson (F = 4.87, F = 5.03, respectively, p < 0.05), whereas neither the Perceived Value of the lesson declined nor did children report feelings of Pressure from this alternative teaching method. This research showed that PA integrated with the academic subjects can positively impact children’s academic motivation.
  • CITATION: Vazou, S., Gavrilou, P., Mamalaki, E., Papanastasiou, A., & Sioumala, N. (2012). Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation? International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10(4), 251–263. https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2012.682368

2011 Articles

Physically active academic lessons in elementary children

  • BACKGROUND: Although schools are an ideal location to conduct interventions that target children, the emphasis on standardized testing makes it difficult to implement interventions that do not directly support academic instruction. In response, physically active academic lessons have been developed as a strategy to increase physical activity while also addressing core educational goals. Texas I-CAN! is one incarnation of this approach.
  • METHODS: We will review the on-going research on the impact of these active lessons on: teacher implementation, child step count, child attention control, and academic performance.
  • RESULTS: The collected studies support the impact of physically active academic lessons on each area of interest.
  • CONCLUSIONS: If these data can be replicated, it suggests that teachers might find these lessons of benefit to their primary role as educators, which should ease dissemination of these and other physically active lessons in elementary schools.
  • CITATION: Bartholomew, J. B., & Jowers, E. M. (2011). Physically active academic lessons in elementary children. Preventive Medicine, 52, Supplement, S51–S54. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.01.017

Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement

  • BACKGROUND: There is increasing evidence for the association between physical activity, cardiovascular fitness, fatness, and cognitive function during childhood and adolescence. Evidence also suggests that these variables are linked to academic achievement. Classroom-based physical activity provides a viable approach to improve fitness, body mass index (BMI), cognitive function, and ultimately academic achievement.
  • METHODS: Studies examining the relation between physical activity, fitness, fatness, cognitive function, and academic achievement are described. The results of a large-scale, longitudinal, cluster randomized trial to examine the impact of classroom based physical activity on body mass index and academic achievement will be presented.
  • RESULTS: Overall, the data support the link between physical activity, cognitive function, and academic achievement. The role of physical activity in the classroom was also supported by the Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC) project. Physically active academic lessons of moderate intensity improved overall performance on a standardized test of academic achievement by 6% compared to a decrease of 1% for controls (p<0.02). BMI increased less from baseline to 3 years in students with greater than 75 minutes of PAAC lessons per week (1.8 BMI) compared to students with less than 75 minutes of PAAC per week (2.4 BMI), p<0.00.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Future research examining the effects of physically active academic instruction is warranted. The impact of physically active academic lessons of greater intensity may provide larger benefits for body mass index and academic achievement.
  • CITATION: Donnelly, J., & Lambourne, K. (2011). Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement. Preventive Medicine, 52(S1), S36–S42.

Effect of a low-cost, teacher-directed classroom intervention on elementary students’ physical activity

  • BACKGROUND: Effective physical activity (PA) interventions are warranted for youth, and schools have been identified as logical locations for such involvement. Experts and professionals in the field promote comprehensive school PA programs, including classroom PA. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of a low-cost, teacher-directed classroom-based intervention on the school PA of elementary children.
  • METHODS: Nine classroom teachers were provided inexpensive curricula and trained to implement and instruct PA breaks (2 × 30 minute training sessions). The teachers were encouraged to lead 1 activity break per day after the training. One hundred and six elementary students wore pedometers up to 12 days over 3 monitoring periods during the school year (baseline, follow-up, post follow-up) to assess the effectiveness and the sustainability of the intervention. The teachers self-reported the frequency of activity breaks instructed.
  • RESULTS: The teachers (n = 5) who complied with the recommended 1 activity break per day had students who accrued ∼33% more mean school steps/day at follow-up (∼1100) and post follow-up (∼1350) compared to controls. Teachers (n = 4) in the intervention who did not comply with the 1 activity break per day recommendation had students accrue similar mean school steps/day as controls.
  • CONCLUSION: Inexpensive, teacher-directed classroom-based PA interventions can be effective in improving children’s PA levels if teachers implement 1 activity break per school day. We recommend promoting the notion of 1 activity break per day in the classroom as part of a comprehensive school PA program that includes quality physical education, recess, and before/after school programs.
  • CITATION: Erwin, H. E., Beighle, A., Morgan, C. F., & Noland, M. (2011). Effect of a low-cost, teacher-directed classroom intervention on elementary students’ physical activity. Journal of School Health, 81(8), 455–461. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00614.x

Ten years of TAKE 10!®: Integrating physical activity with academic concepts in elementary school classrooms

  • OBJECTIVE: Current literature supports the link between physical activity (PA) or fitness and a child’s ability to achieve academically; however, little structured activity time is incorporated into elementary school classrooms. This paper explores the impact of a classroom-based PA program, TAKE 10!, and health–academic integration through existing state and federal policy and programming.
  • METHODS: Evidence from journal articles, published abstracts, and reports were examined to summarize the impact of TAKE 10! on student health and other outcomes. This paper reviews 10 years of TAKE 10! studies and makes recommendations for future research.
  • RESULTS: Teachers are willing and able to implement classroom-based PA integrated with grade-specific lessons (4.2 days/wk). Children participating in the TAKE 10! program experience higher PA levels (13%>), reduced time-off-task (20.5%), and improved reading, math, spelling and composite scores (p<0.01). Furthermore, students achieved moderate energy expenditure levels (6.16 to 6.42 METs) and studies suggest that BMI may be positively impacted (decreases in BMI z score over 2 years [P<0.01]).
  • CONCLUSION: TAKE 10! demonstrates that integrating movement with academics in elementary school classrooms is feasible, helps students focus on learning, and enables them to realize improved PA levels while also helping schools achieve wellness policies.
  • CITATION: Kibbe, D. L., Hackett, J., Hurley, M., McFarland, A., Schubert, K. G., Schultz, A., & Harris, S. (2011). Ten Years of TAKE 10!®: Integrating physical activity with academic concepts in elementary school classrooms. Preventive Medicine, 52, Supplement, S43–S50. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.01.025

Daily classroom movement: Physical activity integration into the classroom

  • ABSTRACT: The researchers of this project addressed the problem of inactivity and obesity in children with a school-based intervention that was developed to instruct, motivate and inspire these children to become or stay active and eat healthy for a lifetime using the classroom setting because most children were seeing their physical educator only once a week (in the most inactive state in the US). This proactive wellness initiative specifically aimed to give students tools for gaining insight and experience to increase personal health and wellbeing. The program was easily adaptable to the community and public. This program was initiated to create education and opportunities for equal and greater access to health related services; develop and promote programs addressing healthier lifestyles; develop program to obtain maximum use of school/church indoor recreational facilities; improve health education programs for all public school systems; increase emphasis on preventive health maintenance activities; create new cultural awareness of “wellness;” and increase levels of physical activity for a lifetime.
  • CITATION: Adams-Blair, H., & Oliver, G. (2011). Daily Classroom Movement: Physical Activity Integration into the Classroom. International Journal of Health, Wellness & Society, 1(3), 147–154.

Instant Recess®: A practical tool for increasing physical activity during the school day

  • BACKGROUND: An increased prevalence of overweight/obesity among children has led to school district level policies to increase physical activity (PA) among elementary school students. Interventions are needed that increase activity levels without sacrificing time spent in academics.
  • OBJECTIVES: We evaluated a policy implementation intervention for to increase in-school PA in elementary schools in Forsyth County, North Carolina, in a randomized study with a delayed intervention control group.
  • METHODS: The study included third- through fifth-grade classrooms in eight elementary schools. Instant Recess® was used to introduce 10-minute PA breaks in classrooms on schedules determined by teachers. Direct observation was used to measure activity levels, other student behaviors, and teacher behaviors related to PA in the classrooms.
  • RESULTS: Twenty-eight visits to schools were made during the spring and fall semesters of 2009. At baseline 11% to 44% of intervention and control schools were engaged in classroom-based PA. PA increased from baseline to spring follow-up in intervention schools and was maintained the following fall. Control schools decreased PA from baseline to spring and increased PA once they began the intervention. Students in classrooms engaged in Instant Recess exhibited statistically significant increases in light (51%) and moderate-intensity (16%) PA and increases in time spent in on-task behavior (11%). Control schools experienced similar benefits after they began implementing Instant Recess.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Instant Recess is useful for increasing PA and improving behavior among elementary school children. Additional research may be needed to understand how to create policies supporting classroom activity breaks and how to assess policy adherence.
  • CITATION: Whitt-Glover, M. C., Ham, S. A., & Yancey, A. K. (2011). Instant Recess®: A practical tool for increasing physical activity during the school day. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 5(3), 289–297. doi:10.1353/cpr.2011.0031

2010 and Prior Articles

Examining the impact of integrating physical activity on fluid intelligence and academic performance in an elementary school setting: A preliminary investigation

  • PURPOSE: To examine the impact of integrating physical activity with elementary curricula on fluid intelligence and academic achievement.
  • METHODS: A random sample of 3rd grade teachers integrated physical activity into their core curricula approximately 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week from January 2008 to April 2008. Noninvasive fluid intelligence cognitive measures were used along with State-mandated academic achievement tests.
  • RESULTS: Experimental Group children averaged close to 1200 pedometer steps per integration day, thus averaging 3600 steps per week. Children in the Experimental Group performed significantly better on the SPM Fluid Intelligence Test. Children in the Experimental Group also performed significantly better on the Social Studies State mandated academic achievement test. Experimental Group children also received higher scores on the English/Language Arts, Math and Science achievements tests, but were not statistically significant compared with Control Group children. Children classified in Fitnessgram’s Healthy Fitness Zone for BMI earned lower scores on many of the SPM Fluid Intelligence components.
  • DISCUSSION: This investigation provides evidence that movement can influence fluid intelligence and should be considered to promote cognitive development of elementary-age children. Equally compelling were the differences in SPM Fluid Intelligence Test scores for children who were distinguished by Fitnessgram’s BMI cut points.
  • CITATION: Reed, J. A., Einstein, G., Hahn, E., Hooker, S. P., Gross, V. P., & Kravitz, J. (2010). Examining the impact of integrating physical activity on fluid intelligence and academic performance in an elementary school setting: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 7(3), 343–351.

Physical activity across the curriculum (PAAC): A randomized controlled trial to promote physical activity and diminish overweight and obesity in elementary children

  • BACKGROUND: Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC) was a three-year cluster randomized controlled trial to promote physical activity and diminish increases in overweight and obesity in elementary school children.
  • METHODS: Twenty-four elementary schools were cluster randomized to the PAAC intervention or served as control. All children in grades two and three were followed to grades four and five. PAAC promoted 90 min/wk of moderate to vigorous intensity physically active academic lessons delivered by classroom teachers. Body Mass Index (BMI) was the primary outcome; daily physical activity and academic achievement were secondary outcomes.
  • RESULTS: The three-year change in BMI for PAAC was 2.0 ± 1.9 and control 1.9±1.9, respectively (NS). However, change in BMI from baseline to 3 years was significantly influenced by exposure to PAAC. Schools with ≥ 75 min of PAAC/wk showed significantly less increase in BMI at 3 years compared to schools that had <75 min of PAAC (1.8±1.8 vs. 2.4±2.0, p = 0.02). PAAC schools had significantly greater changes in daily physical activity and academic achievement scores.
  • CONCLUSIONS: The PAAC approach may promote daily physical activity and academic achievement in elementary school children. Additionally, 75 min of PAAC activities may attenuate increases in BMI.
  • CITATION: Donnelly, J. E., Greene, J. L., Gibson, C. A., Smith, B. K., Washburn, R. A., Sullivan, D. K., . . . Williams, S. L. (2009). Physical activity across the curriculum (PAAC): A randomized controlled trial to promote physical activity and diminish overweight and obesity in elementary children. Preventive Medicine, 49, 336–341.

Promoting children’s health through physically active math classes: A pilot study

  • OVERVIEW: School-based interventions are encouraged to support youth physical activity (PA). Classroom-based PA has been incorporated as one component of school well- ness policies. The purpose of this pilot study is to examine the effects of integrating PA with mathematics content on math class and school day PA levels of elementary students. Participants include four teachers and 75 students. Five math classes are taught without PA integration (i.e., baseline) followed by 13 math classes that integrate PA. Students wear pedometers and accelerometers to track PA during math class and throughout the school day.
  • RESULTS: Students perform significantly more PA on school days and in math classes during the intervention. In addition, students perform higher intensity (step min–1) PA during PA integration math classes compared with baseline math classes. Integrating PA into the classroom is an effective alternative approach to improving PA levels among youth and is an important component of school-based wellness policies.
  • CITATION: Erwin, H. E., Abel, M. G., Beighle, A., & Beets, M. W. (2009). Promoting children’s health through physically active math classes: A pilot study. Health Promotion Practice, 12, 244–251.

Physically active academic lessons and time on task: The moderating effect of body mass index

  • BACKGROUND: Physically active classroom lessons have been found to increase on-task behavior in children. Given that physical activity has been associated with an increased time on task (TOT) and that overweight children take fewer steps than normal weight children do, it was expected that benefits of the physical activity would differentially impact those children of higher weight status.
  • PURPOSE: To examine the effects of a physically active classroom lesson and body mass index (BMI) category on TOT in a sample of elementary-aged children (N = 97).
  • METHODS: Behavior was assessed through direct observations before and after a physically active classroom lesson and before and after a traditional inactive classroom lesson. TOT was calculated through momentary time sampling for each student by dividing the number of on-task observations by the total number of observations per student (interrater reliability = 94%).
  • RESULTS: TOT decreased significantly from before to after the lesson for all BMI categories in the inactive control condition, with no change for the active condition. Post hoc analyses found a significant linear effect for the reduction in TOT with each level of BMI in the inactive condition, with the greatest magnitude of effect for the overweight group.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Physically active classroom lessons provide a buffer to prevent the steep reduction in TOT experienced after a period of inactivity in all children, especially those who are overweight.
  • CITATION: Grieco, L. A., Jowers, E., & Bartholomew, J. B. (2009). Physically active academic lessons and time on task: The moderating effect of body mass index. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41, 1921–1926.

Evaluation of a classroom-based physical activity promoting programme

  • PURPOSE: The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effect of the Happy 10 programme on the promotion of physical activity, physical growth and development of primary school students, and on obesity control and prevention. Two similar primary schools from one district of Beijing, China were selected, one as an intervention school and the other as a control school.
  • METHOD: A Happy 10 programme was implemented at least once every school day in the intervention school for two semesters, whereas no intervention was adopted in the control school. The information on energy expenditure and duration of physical activity was collected by a validated 7-day physical activity questionnaire. Height and weight were measured by the trained investigators following standardized procedure. Energy expenditure and intensity of each Happy 10 session were measured by a physical activity monitor.
  • RESULTS: The average energy expenditure and duration of total physical activity per day among students in the intervention school increased significantly from 15.0 to 18.2 kcal kg-1 and 2.8 to 3.3 h, respectively, whereas the figures significantly decreased in the control school. There was a significant difference in change of weight and body mass index between girls in the intervention and control school (2.4 kg vs. 4.6 kg; 0.47 kg m-2 vs. 0.66 kg m-2). The prevalence of overweight and obesity in the intervention school decreased by 0.4–5.6%, as compared with the increase by 0.6–4.5% in the control school. The average energy expenditure and intensity per 10-min session ranged from 25.0 to 35.1 kcal and from 4.8 to 6.2 kcal kg-1 h-1, respectively, in grades 1–5.
  • CONCLUSION: The Happy 10 programme provides a useful strategy to promote physical activity among school children, and also plays a positive role in building up physical growth and development of girls.
  • CITATION: Liu, A., Hu, X., Ma, G., Cui, Z., Pan, Y., Chang, S., … Chen, C. (2008). Evaluation of a classroom-based physical activity promoting programme. Obesity Reviews, 9, 130–134. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2007.00454.x

School-based physical activity does not compromise children’s academic performance

  • PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was twofold: 1) to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based physical activity intervention, Action Schools! BC (AS! BC), for maintaining academic performance in a multiethnic group of elementary children, and 2) to determine whether boys and girls’ academic performance changed similarly after participation in AS! BC.
  • METHODS: This was a 16-month cluster randomized controlled trial. Ten schools were randomized to intervention (INT) or usual practice (UP). One INT school administered the wrong final test, and one UP school graded their own test, so both were excluded. Thus, eight schools (six INT, two UP) were included in the final analysis. Children (143 boys, 144 girls) in grades 4 and 5 were recruited for the study. We used the Canadian Achievement Test (CAT-3) to evaluate academic performance (TotScore). Weekly teacher activity logs determined amounts of physical activity delivered by teachers to students. Physical activity was determined with the Physical Activity Questionnaire for Children (PAQ-C). Independent t-tests compared descriptive variables between groups and between boys and girls. We used a mixed linear model to evaluate differences in TotScore at follow-up between groups and between girls and boys.
  • RESULTS: Physical activity delivered by teachers to children in INT schools was increased by 47 min x wk(-1) (139 +/- 62 vs 92 +/- 45, P < 0.001). Participants attending UP schools had significantly higher baseline TotScores than those attending INT schools. Despite this, there was no significant difference in TotScore between groups at follow-up and between boys and girls at baseline and follow-up.
  • CONCLUSION: The AS! BC model is an attractive and feasible intervention to increase physical activity for students while maintaining levels of academic performance.
  • CITATION: Ahamed, Y., Macdonald, H., Reed, K., Naylor, P.-J., Liu-Ambrose, T., & McKay, H. (2007). School-based physical activity does not compromise children’s academic performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(2), 371–376. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000241654.45500.8e

Effects of a classroom-based program on physical activity and on-task behavior

  • PURPOSE: This study evaluated the effects of a classroom-based physical activity program on children`s in-school physical activity levels and on-task behavior during academic instruction.
  • METHODS: Physical activity of 243 students was assessed during school hours. Intervention- group students (N = 135) received a classroom-based program (i.e., Energizers). The control group (N = 108) did not receive Energizers. On-task behavior during academic instruction time was observed for 62 third-grade (N = 37) and fourth-grade students (N = 25) before and after Energizers activities. An independent groups t-test compared in-school physical activity levels between intervention and control classes. A multiple-baseline across-classrooms design was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Energizers on on-task behavior. Additionally, a two-way (time [pre- vs. post-observation] x period [baseline vs. intervention]) repeated-measures analysis of variance compared on-task behavior between observation periods. Magnitudes of mean differences were evaluated with Cohen’s delta (ES).
  • RESULTS: Students in the intervention group took significantly (P G 0.05) more in-school steps (5587 ± 1633) than control-group students (4805 ± 1543), and the size of this difference was moderate (ES = 0.49). The intervention was effective in improving on-task behavior; after the Energizers were systematically implemented, on-task behavior systematically improved. The improvement in on-task behavior of 8% between the pre-Energizers and post-Energizers observations was statistically significant (P < 0.017), and the difference was moderate (ES = 0.60). Likewise, the least on-task students improved on-task behavior by 20% after Energizers activities. This improvement was statistically significant (P < 0.001) and meaningful (ES = 2.20).
  • CONCLUSION: A classroom-based physical activity program was effective for increasing daily in-school physical activity and improving on-task behavior during academic instruction.
  • CITATION: Mahar, M. T., Murphy, S. K., Rowe, D. A., Golden, J., Shields, A. T., & Raedeke, T. D. (2006). Effects of a classroom-based program on physical activity and on-task behavior. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 38, 2086–2094.

Sitting habits in elementary schoolchildren: A traditional versus a “moving school”

  • OVERVIEW: This study evaluated differences in sitting habits in the classroom between the project “Moving school” and a traditional school in 8-year-old children. Twenty-two children, since 1.5 years involved in the project were compared to 25 children in a traditional school. Making use of the Portable Ergonomic Observation (PEO) method, it was observed that children from a traditional school spend an average of 97% of the lesson time sitting statically, from which one-third with the trunk bend over 45◦.
  • RESULTS: In the “Moving school” this posture was replaced by dynamic sitting (53%), standing (31%) and walking around (10%), while trunk flexion over 45◦ was nearly not observed. Children from the “Moving school” also showed significantly less neck and trunk rotation. Additionally, accelerometric data showed significantly more physical activity in lessons of the “Moving school”. Rates of self-reported back or neck pain did not differ significantly between both study groups. Results show that sitting habits are more favourable in a “Moving school”. Further research is needed to study the impact of implementing “Moving school” concepts in traditional schools on sitting habits.
  • CITATION: Cardon, G., De Clercq, D., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., & Breithecker, D. (2004). Sitting habits in elementary schoolchildren: A traditional versus a “moving school.” Patient Education and Counseling, 54(2), 133–142. doi:10.1016/S0738-3991(03)00215-5

Effects of two types of activity on the performance of second-, third-, and fourth-grade students on a test of concentration

  • OVERVIEW: The appropriateness of recess in the elementary program continues to be questioned although generally it is believed to be useful by elementary principals despite a dearth of supportive data. This study was a developmental study of the effects of physical activity on concentration. Comparison of passive and directed physical education activities on the concentration of second-, third-, and fourth-grade children was made.
  • RESULTS: The Woodcock-Johnson Test of Concentration showed better performance by the fourth grades and within Grade 4 in favor of the physical activity group. A structured physical activity or a classroom activity immediately prior to a concentration task was not detrimental to children in Grades 2 and 3. Fourth-grade children performed significantly better on a test of concentration after engaging in a physical activity.
  • CITATION: Caterino, M. C., & Polak, E. D. (1999). Effects of two types of activity on the performance of second-, third-, and fourth-grade students on a test of concentration. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 89, 245–248.

SECTION 2: Other Relevant Research


2017 Articles

The association of physical activity and academic behavior: A systematic review

  • BACKGROUND: In this systematic review, we assessed the existing research describing the effects of physical activity (PA) on academic behavior, with a special focus on the effectiveness of the treatments applied, study designs, outcome measures, and results.
  • METHODS: We obtained data from various journal search engines and 218 journal articles were downloaded that were relevant to PA and academic performance topics. The abstracts of all the articles were independently peer reviewed to assess whether they met the inclusion criteria for further analysis. The literature search was ongoing. Of the reviewed articles, 9 were chosen on the topic of PA effects on academic behavior. Each article was analyzed and summarized using a standard summary template.
  • RESULTS: Overall, PA interventions commonly found positive effects on academic behavior, with few exceptions. There were additional unique findings regarding differences in outcome measures and PA treatments.
  • CONCLUSIONS: The findings from these studies are significant and support the implementation or continuation of PA in schools to improve academic behavior and associated performance. More research needs to be conducted using the effective aspects of the treatments from this review with consistent outcome measures.
  • CITATION: Sullivan, R. A., Kuzel, A. H., Vaandering, M. E., & Chen, W. (2017). The association of physical activity and academic behavior: A systematic review. Journal of School Health, 87(5), 388–398. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12502

School-based physical activity interventions and physical activity enjoyment: A meta-analysis

  • Background: The purpose of this meta-analysis was to examine the effectiveness of school-based physical activity interventions on increasing students’ physical activity enjoyment. An internet search with several databases using the keywords “Adolescents”, “Children”, “Enjoyment”, “Physical Activity”, and “Schools” was performed yielding over 200 published studies. Studies were eliminated based on the lack of experimental manipulation (i.e., non-intervention studies), no assessment of physical activity enjoyment as an outcome variable, a lack of a control or comparison group, and no reporting of the effect estimate’s variability (i.e., standard deviation, standard error, etc.). This procedure resulted in 10 studies being examined in the meta-analysis. Data were analyzed in the state of Utah, USA in 2017. The Hartung-Knapp-Sidak-Jonkman method for a random effects meta-analysis was employed with studies being weighted by inverse variance. The pooled Standardized Mean Difference = 0.38 (95% C.I. [0.10–0.65], p = 0.011). Cochran’s Q test showed statistical significance (p < 0.001) and the I2 = 76.6%, suggesting large heterogeneity across the 10 studies. Egger’s regression model yielded an intercept coefficient that was statistically significant (bias = 3.28, 95% C.I. [0.21–6.36], p = 0.039), indicating the presence of small-study effects.
  • Conclusions: This meta-analysis provides evidence that school-based physical activity interventions can be effective in increasing physical activity enjoyment in children and adolescents. However, the magnitude of the pooled effect was small-to-moderate and there was evidence for publication bias and large between-study heterogeneity.
  • CITATION: Burns, R. D., Fu, Y., & Podlog, L. W. (2017). School-based physical activity interventions and physical activity enjoyment: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine, 103, 84–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.08.011

A whole brain volumetric approach in overweight/obese children: Examining the association with different physical fitness components and academic performance. The ActiveBrains project

  • Background and Methods: Obesity, as compared to normal weight, is associated with detectable structural differences in the brain. To the best of our knowledge, no previous study has examined the association of physical fitness with gray matter volume in overweight/obese children using whole brain analyses. Thus, the aim of this study was to examine the association between the key components of physical fitness (i.e. cardiorespiratory fitness, speed-agility and muscular fitness) and brain structural volume, and to assess whether fitness-related changes in brain volumes are related to academic performance in overweight/obese children. A total of 101 overweight/obese children aged 8–11 years were recruited from Granada, Spain. The physical fitness components were assessed following the ALPHA health-related fitness test battery. T1-weighted images were acquired with a 3.0 T S Magnetom Tim Trio system. Gray matter tissue was calculated using Diffeomorphic Anatomical Registration Through Exponentiated Lie algebra (DARTEL). Academic performance was assessed by the Batería III Woodcock-Muñoz Tests of Achievement. All analyses were controlled for sex, peak high velocity offset, parent education, body mass index and total brain volume. The statistical threshold was calculated with AlphaSim and further Hayasaka adjusted to account for the non-isotropic smoothness of structural images.
  • Results: The main results showed that higher cardiorespiratory fitness was related to greater gray matter volumes (P < 0.001, k = 64) in 7 clusters with β ranging from 0.493 to 0.575; specifically in frontal regions (i.e. premotor cortex and supplementary motor cortex), subcortical regions (i.e. hippocampus and caudate), temporal regions (i.e. inferior temporal gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus) and calcarine cortex. Three of these regions (i.e. premotor cortex, supplementary motor cortex and hippocampus) were related to better academic performance (β ranging from 0.211 to 0.352; all P < 0.05). Higher speed-agility was associated with greater gray matter volumes (P < 0.001, k = 57) in 2 clusters (i.e. the inferior frontal gyrus and the superior temporal gyrus) with β ranging from 0.564 to 0.611. Both clusters were related to better academic performance (β ranging from 0.217 to 0.296; both P < 0.05). Muscular fitness was not independently associated with greater gray matter volume in any brain region. Furthermore, there were no statistically significant negative association between any component of physical fitness and gray matter volume in any region of the brain.
  • Conclusions: In conclusion, cardiorespiratory fitness and speed-agility, but not muscular fitness, may independently be associated with greater volume of numerous cortical and subcortical brain structures; besides, some of these brain structures may be related to better academic performance. Importantly, the identified associations of fitness and gray matter volume were different for each fitness component. These findings suggest that increases in cardiorespiratory fitness and speed-agility may positively influence the development of distinctive brain regions and academic indicators, and thus counteract the harmful effect of overweight and obesity on brain structure during childhood.
  • CITATION: Esteban-Cornejo, I., Cadenas-Sanchez, C., Contreras-Rodriguez, O., Verdejo-Roman, J., Mora-Gonzalez, J., Migueles, J. H., … Ortega, F. B. (2017). A whole brain volumetric approach in overweight/obese children: Examining the association with different physical fitness components and academic performance. The ActiveBrains project. NeuroImage, 159, 346–354. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.08.011

Physical activity and global self-worth in a longitudinal study of children

  • Purpose: Physical activity is associated with an array of physical and mental health benefits among children and adolescents. The development of self-worth/self-esteem has been proposed as a mechanism to explain the mental health benefits derived from physical activity. Despite several studies that have analyzed the association between physical activity and self-worth, the results have been inconsistent. It is also uncertain how related physical health measures, such as sedentary behavior, body composition, and fitness, influence the relationship between physical activity and self-worth over time. In the present study, we 1) analyzed if the association between physical activity and self-worth remained constant over time and whether this relationship varied by sex and 2) investigated if changes in body composition and fitness level mediated the relationship between physical activity and self-worth.
  • Methods: Data from the Physical Health Activity Study Team were used for this analysis. The Physical Health Activity Study Team is a prospective cohort study that included 2278 children at baseline (ages 9–10 yr) and included eight follow-up contacts for a 4-yr study period. Linear mixed-effects models were used to estimate global self-worth (GSW) over follow-up.
  • Results: Increased physical activity was associated with greater GSW across all waves of data collection, and this relationship did not vary significantly over time or between sexes. Aerobic fitness was positively associated with GSW, whereas body mass index (BMI) was inversely related to GSW. Both aerobic fitness and BMI appeared to mediate the association between physical activity and GSW. Sedentary behavior was not significantly associated with GSW.
  • Conclusion: Physical activity is associated with greater GSW, and this relationship appears to be mediated by BMI and aerobic fitness. These findings reinforce the importance of physical behaviors and physical characteristics in shaping GSW in children.
  • CITATION: Reddon, H., Meyre, D., & Cairney, J. (2017). Physical activity and global self-worth in a longitudinal study of children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49(8), 1606-1613. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001275

After-school physical activity interventions on child and adolescent physical activity and health: A review of reviews

  • PURPOSE: Schools are a critical setting for children to accrue recommended levels of physical activity, and after-school programmes are suggested to supplement existing programmes such as physical education. This review of reviews provides a comprehensive picture of the effects of after-school physical activity programmes on student physical activity and health.
  • METHODS: We completed a literature search of electronic databases and identified six existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the effects of after-school programmes on child and adolescent physical activity and health. We compared these reviews on numerous factors, including the databases searched, aims, outcome variables, physical activity measures, inclusion criteria, and quality of original studies.
  • RESULTS: Our review of reviews identified considerable differences among the published reviews in the number and type of studies included, and in the conclusions drawn. In general, the reviews identified better outcomes when conducting the programmes in school rather than community settings, providing sessions on two or more days a week, and ensuring high programme attendance rates. Subgroup analyses indicated that girls were more receptive than boys to intervention programmes that promoted weight control. Additionally, there were some benefits for increasing physical activity levels among overweight youth and boys.
  • CONCLUSIONS: This review of reviews suggests there is currently only modest support of the benefits of after-school programmes on child and adolescent physical activity levels and body composition. Many questions remain unanswered, and there is further need to design, implement, and assess quality after-school interventions that target physical activity in diverse settings.
  • CITATION: Demetriou, Y., Gillison, F., & McKenzie, T. L. (2017). After-school physical activity interventions on child and adolescent physical activity and health: A review of reviews. Advances in Physical Education, 7(2), 191. https://doi.org/10.4236/ape.2017.72017 Link to article

Predictors of segmented school day physical activity and sedentary time in children from a Northwest England low-income community

  • BACKGROUND: Schools have been identified as important settings for health promotion through physical activity participation, particularly as children are insufficiently active for health. The aim of this study was to investigate the child and school-level influences on children′s physical activity levels and sedentary time during school hours in a sample of children from a low-income community.
  • METHODS: One hundred and eighty-six children (110 boys) aged 9–10 years wore accelerometers for 7 days, with 169 meeting the inclusion criteria of 16 h∙day−1 for a minimum of three week days. Multilevel prediction models were constructed to identify significant predictors of sedentary time, light, and moderate to vigorous physical activity during school hour segments. Child-level predictors (sex, weight status, maturity offset, cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity self-efficacy, physical activity enjoyment) and school-level predictors (number on roll, playground area, provision score) were entered into the models.
  • RESULTS: Maturity offset, fitness, weight status, waist circumference-to-height ratio, sedentary time, moderate to vigorous physical activity, number of children on roll and playground area significantly predicted physical activity and sedentary time.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Research should move towards considering context-specific physical activity and its correlates to better inform intervention strategies.
  • CITATION: Taylor, S. L., Curry, W. B., Knowles, Z. R., Noonan, R. J., McGrane, B., & Fairclough, S. J. (2017). Predictors of segmented school day physical activity and sedentary time in children from a Northwest England low-income community. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 534. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14050534

A review of implementation outcome measures of school-based physical activity interventions

  • BACKGROUND: Measuring the implementation of school-based physical activity (PA) interventions is an important prerequisite in assessing their impact. Prior to conducting a study to assess the implementation of the daily physical activity (DPA) policy in Ontario, Canada, a literature review was conducted to identify existing survey instruments to measure 5 implementation outcomes: adoption, fidelity, implementation cost, reach, and sustainability.
  • METHODS: A search for survey instruments to assess these implementation outcomes at the teacher and school administrator levels was conducted in 7 bibliographic databases, as well as the gray literature. Each survey instrument was coded as assessing 1 of the 5 implementation outcomes if it included at least 1 item measuring the construct.
  • RESULTS: Twenty-three survey instruments were identified. None of the instruments were specifically developed to measure the implementation outcomes. Fidelity was the most common implementation outcome measured, followed by adoption. The least common implementation outcome measured was sustainability. Thirty-five percent of survey instruments assessed were previously tested for validity and 26% were previously tested for reliability.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Based on this review, a gap in available instruments to measure implementation outcomes of school-based PA programs was identified. An adapted theoretical framework, presented here, has potential application in future implementation studies.
  • CITATION: Shah, S., Allison, K. R., Schoueri-Mychasiw, N., Pach, B., Manson, H., & Vu-Nguyen, K. (2017). A review of implementation outcome measures of school-based physical activity interventions. Journal of School Health, 87(6), 474–486. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12514

Run for your life! Childhood physical activity effects on brain and cognition

  • ABSTRACT: The past two decades have uncovered the beneficial relation of physical activity and other health behaviors on brain and cognition, with the majority of data emerging from older adult populations. More recently, a similar research thread has emerged in school-aged children, which offers insight into the relation of physical activity to scholastic performance, providing a real-world application of the benefits observed in the laboratory. Technological advances have similarly furthered our understanding of physical activity effects on cognitive and brain health. Given this emerging body of work, this manuscript reviews the basic findings within the field, but more importantly suggests triggers or signals from the emerging literature that will shape the field in the near future. The overall goal of this body of research is to increase cognitive and brain health to promote effective functioning of individuals across the lifespan.
  • CITATION: Hillman, C. H., Erickson, K. I., & Hatfield, B. D. (2017). Run for your life! Childhood physical activity effects on brain and cognition. Kinesiology Review, 6(1), 12-21. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/kr.2016-0034

Ready to learn: The impact of the Morning Blast physical activity intervention on elementary school students

  • OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a physical activity intervention programme, named “Morning Blast”, on elementary school students’ math learning and daily physical activity. The Morning Blast intervention programme was a 16-week cardiovascular endurance emphasized physical activity program that students voluntarily participated in before the school day. Participants that volunteered, did so for the duration of the program.
  • METHODS: This mixed-methods study included 7 educators and 83 students (n=90). The students were all children who were enrolled in Grades 3, 4, and 5 in a semi-rural elementary school in the United States. Data were collected through focus-group interviews, surveys, quantitative analysis of step counts, and from quasi-experimental research design.
  • RESULTS: Students in the experimental group were found to have: (1) increased scores on math standard score, (2) greater confidence in their academic ability, and (3) had more accumulated steps compared to students in the control group. Students in the experimental group also reported that they were more “ready to learn” after completing the physical activity intervention. This finding was also confirmed by their teachers.
  • CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates how an increase in physical activity during the morning time has positive benefits for students throughout the school day.
  • CITATION: Xu, T., Byker, E. J., & Gonzales, M. R. (2017). Ready to learn: The impact of the Morning Blast physical activity intervention on elementary school students. Movement, Health & Exercise, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.15282/mohe.v6i1.137

“For whom was it effective?” Moderators of the effect of a school-based intervention on potential physical activity determinants among Brazilian students

  • AIMS: Knowledge about the effects of school-based interventions on modifiable physical activity (PA) determinants (e.g., social support), and whether the intervention effect differs according to students’ characteristics (e.g., age and gender) are relevant PA promotion topics. This study aims to answer these topics among Brazilian students.
  • METHODS: This cluster-randomized controlled trial was conducted with 548 students in the intervention group and 537 in the control group (51.5% of boys; aged 11–18 years). The four-month intervention included strategies focused on training teachers, opportunities for PA in the school environment, and health education. Potential PA determinants (attitude, self-efficacy, support of friends, parents, and teachers, perceived neighborhood environment and PA facilities in school) and moderators (gender, age, socioeconomic status (SES), and PA level at baseline) were assessed using self-reported instrument. Height and weight were measured to estimate the students’ body mass index (BMI) status. Generalized linear models were used.
  • RESULTS: In general, there was a significant and positive intervention effect for attitude, support of friends and teachers for PA, as well as PA facilities in school; effect size was 0.29, 0.24, 0.34, and 0.29, respectively (P < 0.05). Age (support of friends, parents and teachers, and PA facilities in school), SES (support of friends and PA facilities in school), and BMI status (support of friends) were moderators of the intervention effect on some outcomes.
  • CONCLUSION: In conclusion, the intervention improved potential PA determinants, but some changes occurred differently according to students’ characteristics. These findings should be considered in PA policies in the school context.
  • CITATION: Filho, V. C. B., da Silva, K. S., Mota, J., Vieira, N. F. C., Gubert, F. do A., & da Silva Lopes, A. (2017). “For whom was it effective?” Moderators of the effect of a school-based intervention on potential physical activity determinants among Brazilian students. Preventive Medicine, 97, 80–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.01.007

Rethinking school-based approaches to promote physical activity among children: using the evidence base more effectively

  • RESEARCH: Researchers should seek to provide better quality evidence on the effect of interventions to promote physical activity during PE and the impact of such interventions on other important educational outcomes.
  • POLICY: It is recommended that schools adopt the National Professional Recommendations for PE from SHAPE America which has been shown to result to higher levels of physical activity during PE than state-based policies.
  • PRACTICE: We need to know the optimal “dose” of professional development that is needed each year to up-skill current specialist and classroom teachers so they can provide the best learning environments for their students during PE classes.
  • CITATION: Okely, A. D. (2017). Rethinking school-based approaches to promote physical activity among children: using the evidence base more effectively. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 1–3. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13142-017-0462-8

Levels and sociodemographic correlates of accelerometer-based physical activity in Irish children: a cross-sectional study

  • BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to explore levels and sociodemographic correlates of physical activity (PA) over 1 week using accelerometer data.
  • METHODS: Accelerometer data was collected over 1 week from 1075 8–11-year-old children in the cross-sectional Cork Children’s Lifestyle Study. Threshold values were used to categorise activity intensity as sedentary, light, moderate or vigorous. Questionnaires collected data on demographic factors. Smoothed curves were used to display minute by minute variations. Binomial regression was used to identify factors correlated with the probability of meeting WHO 60 min moderate to vigorous PA guidelines.
  • RESULTS: Overall, 830 children (mean (SD) age: 9.9(0.7) years, 56.3% boys) were included. From the binomial multiple regression analysis, boys were found more likely to meet guidelines (probability ratio 1.17, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.28) than girls. Older children were less likely to meet guidelines than younger children (probability ratio 0.91, CI 0.87 to 0.95). Normal weight children were more likely than overweight and obese children to meet guidelines (probability ratio 1.25, CI 1.16 to 1.34). Children in urban areas were more likely to meet guidelines than those in rural areas (probability ratio 1.19, CI 1.07 to 1.33). Longer daylight length days were associated with greater probability of meeting guidelines compared to shorter daylight length days.
  • CONCLUSIONSPA levels differed by individual factors including age, gender and weight status as well as by environmental factors including residence and daylight length. Less than one-quarter of children (26.8% boys, 16.2% girls) meet guidelines. Effective intervention policies are urgently needed to increase PA.
  • CITATION: Li, X., Kearney, P. M., Keane, E., Harrington, J. M., & Fitzgerald, A. P. (2017). Levels and sociodemographic correlates of accelerometer-based physical activity in Irish children: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 71(6), 521-527. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech-2016-207691

2016 Articles

The effect of three types of physical education instruction on whole-day sedentary time and moderate to vigorous physical activity in third grade students

  • BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of three types of physical education (PE) instruction on whole-day sedentary time and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in third grade students.
  • METHODS: Forty-five participants (22 M, 23 F; 8.4±0.8 yrs) from three 3rd grade classrooms were combined into 1 PE class as part of the schools normal schedule. Students were then randomly assigned to one of three types of PE instruction: motor skill (MS), physical activity (PA), or motor skill and PA (MS+PA). The PE instruction took place for 10 weeks, 3 times a week, for 30-40 minutes each day. Objective PA was measured using an Actigraph GT3X+ accelerometer. Participants wore the accelerometer during weeks 1 and 10 on the right hip for seven days at each time point. Epoch length was set to 15 seconds. Evenson cut-points were used to determine sedentary time and MVPA. Sedentary time and MVPA were then divided by total wear time to determine percent time spent in each category. Wear time criteria was 600 minutes per day for 4 days. Paired samples t-tests were used to determine differences in percent sedentary time and MVPA at weeks 1 and 10 from the three PE instruction groups.
  • RESULTS: Five participants were excluded at week 1 for not meeting wear time criteria. For week 10, 10 participants were noncompliant and did not wear the accelerometer and 9 participants were excluded due to insufficient wear time. A significant difference in percent sedentary time was found for the MS (52.75±6.1%; 54.4±7.5 mean±S.D.), PA (53.14±6.9; 54.27±6.1) and PA+MS (60.21±6.8; 56.4±9.4) instruction groups. A significant difference was further found in MVPA for the MS (13.7±2.6; 14.2±2.8), PA (14.3±3.1; 13.8±2.8), and PA+MS (12.02±5.1; 13.4±5.6) groups.
  • DISCUSSION: The MS and MS+PA groups showed a decrease in sedentary time and an increase in MVPA following 10 weeks of PE instruction. Unexpectedly, the PA group showed a decrease in MVPA, which could be due to examining the entire day instead of only time spent in PE. A limitation to this study was low accelerometer compliance at week 10.
  • CITATION: Moore, R. W., Palmer, K. K., & Robinson, L. E. (2016). The effect of three types of physical education instruction on whole-day sedentary time and moderate to vigorous physical activity in third grade students. Pediatric Exercise Science, 28, 47–47.

Results from the United States of America’s 2016 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth

  • BACKGROUND: The 2016 United States (U.S.) Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth provides a comprehensive evaluation of physical activity levels and factors influencing physical activity among children and youth.
  • METHODS: The report card includes 10 indicators: Overall Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, Active Transportation, Organized Sport Participation, Active Play, Health-related Fitness, Family and Peers, School, Community and the Built Environment, and Government Strategies and Investments. Nationally representative data were used to evaluate the indicators using a standard grading rubric.
  • RESULTS: Sufficient data were available to assign grades to 7 of the indicators, and these ranged from B- for Community and the Built Environment to F for Active Transportation. Overall Physical Activity received a grade of D- due to the low prevalence of meeting physical activity guidelines. A grade of D was assigned to Health-related Fitness, reflecting the low prevalence of meet- ing cardiorespiratory fitness standards. Disparities across age, gender, racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups were observed for several indicators.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Continued poor grades suggest that additional work is required to provide opportunities for U.S. children to be physically active. The observed disparities indicate that special attention should be given to girls, minorities, and those from lower socioeconomic groups when implementing intervention strategies.
  • CITATION: Katzmarzyk, P. T., Denstel, K. D., Beals, K., Bolling, C., Wright, C., Crouter, S. E., … Sisson, S. B. (2016). Results from the United States of America’s 2016 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 13(11 Suppl 2), S307–S313. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2016-0321

Not enough time in the day: A qualitative assessment of in-school physical activity policy as viewed by administrators, teachers, and students

  • BACKGROUND: In recent decades, the alignment of health and education has been at the forefront of school reform. Whereas the establishment of national in-school physical activity (ISPA) recommendations and state-level mandates demonstrates success, there has been less achievement in areas that address health disparities. The purpose of this investigation was to explore barriers and facilitators to implementing state-mandated ISPA policies in the Mississippi Delta.
  • METHODS: Focus groups or interviews were conducted with district administrators, school principals, teachers, and students. A total of 2 semistructured moderator guides were developed to focus on (1) student ISPA practices and preferences and (2) facilitators and barriers to implementing ISPA policies and practices.
  • RESULTS: A total of 6 themes were developed. In that, 2 themes addressed participant-described barriers (primary challenges and interferences and excuses). Three themes highlighted participant-described facilitators (compromisesthings that work, and being active at school). Finally, 1 theme encompassed the participant-described need to address educating the whole child.
  • CONCLUSIONS: There is a critical need for meaningful and relevant solutions to circumvent challenges to implementing ISPA policies and practices in the Mississippi Delta. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model offers a broad means of visualizing rural, low-income, racially concentrated schools to circumvent challenges and foster ISPA policies and practices.
  • CITATION: Gamble, A., Chatfield, S. L., Cormack, Jr., M. L., & Hallam, J. S. (2016). Not enough time in the day: A qualitative assessment of in-school physical activity policy as viewed by administrators, teachers, and students. Journal of School Health, 87(1), 21-28. doi:10.1111/josh.12464

Normal weight children have higher cognitive performance – Independent of physical activity, sleep, and diet

  • BACKGROUND: Aside from the health consequences, observational studies indicate that being overweight may also negatively affect cognitive function. However, existing evidence has to a large extent not controlled for the possible confounding effect of having different lifestyles. Therefore, the objective was to examine the independent associations between weight status and lifestyle indicators with cognitive performance in 8–11 year old Danish children.
  • SUBJECTS/METHODS: The analyses included 828 children (measured in 2011–2012) each having one to three measurement occasions separated by approximately 100 days. Dietary intake, physical activity, sedentary time, and sleep duration were measured using dietary records and accelerometers. The Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire was used to access sleep problems and the Andersen test was carried out to estimate cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF). Weight status (underweight, normal weight, and overweight/obese) was defined according to body mass index and cognitive performance was assessed using the d2-test of attention, a reading test, and a math test. A linear mixed model including a number of fixed and random effects was used to test associations between lifestyle indicators as well as BMI category and cognitive performance.
  • RESULTS: After adjustment for demographics, socioeconomics, and multiple lifestyle indicators, normal weight children had higher cognitive test scores than overweight/obese and underweight children of up to 89% and 48% of expected learning within one school year (P < 0.05). Daily breakfast consumption, fewer sleep problems, higher CRF, less total physical activity, more sedentary time, and less light physical activity were associated with higher cognitive performance independently of each other in at least one of the three cognitive tests (P < 0.05).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Normal weight children had higher cognitive performance compared to overweight/obese as well as underweight children, independent of multiple lifestyle indicators.
  • CITATION: Hjorth, M. F., Sorensen, L. B., Adnersen, R., Dyssegaard, C. B., Ritz, C., Tetens, I., … Sjodin, A. (2016). Normal weight children have higher cognitive performance – Independent of physical activity, sleep, and diet. Physiology & Behavior, 165, 398-404. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.08.021

Physical activity and sedentary time among children with disabilities at school

  • PURPOSES: Physical activity (PA) is important for the development of children with disabilities, but rarely does this population meet recommended standards. Schools are salient locations for PA, but little is known about how specific school settings affect the PA of children with diverse disabilities. We assessed PA and sedentary time (ST) of children with disabilities in three school settings (physical education (PE), recess, lunchtime).
  • METHODS: Participants included 259 children from 13 Hong Kong special schools for five primary disabilities: visual impairments [VI], hearing impairments [HI], physical disabilities [PD], intellectual disabilities [ID], and impaired social development [SD]. Children wore accelerometers at school for 3 days, and the time (min and %) they engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and ST were extracted for each school setting by gender. Analyses included multiple linear mixed models to determine differences in MVPA and ST by gender across disability types, adjusting for BMI, grade level, and duration in each setting.
  • RESULTS: Overall, children spent 70% of their day at school being sedentary and accrued little MVPA (mean 17 min+/-4.2 daily). Children with ID (severe) had especially low levels of MVPA. All three settings contributed significantly to both MVPA and ST, with recess contributing more to MVPA than PE or lunchtime.
  • CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to examine MVPA and ST among different disability types at school using accelerometry. Given the low levels of PA, this population should receive priority in the development of cost-effective interventions to improve their PA opportunities.
  • CITATION: Sit, C. H. P., McKenzie, T. L., Cerin, E., Chow, B. C., Huang, W. Y., & Yu, J. (2016). Physical activity and sedentary time among children with disabilities at school. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49(2), 292-297. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001097

Evaluation of a pilot school-based physical activity challenge for primary school students

  • ISSUE ADDRESSED: Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour among children are growing public health concerns. The Culture-Health-Communities Activity Challenge is a school-based pedometer program in which classes compete to achieve the highest class average daily steps in an 8-week period. The Challenge aims to encourage physical activity in primary school students, with a focus on engaging Aboriginal students. The program was piloted in fifteen classes in New South Wales in 2014.
  • METHODS: The evaluation aimed to explore students’€™ and teachers’€™ experiences of the Challenge, and assess the impact of the Activity Challenge on students’€™ physical activity levels. Data sources were a pre- and post-intervention survey of students’€™ physical activity levels and sedentary time (n=209), qualitative interviews with teachers (n=11), and discussions with 10 classes.
  • RESULTS: Fifteen Year 5 and 6 classes comprising 318 students participated. Fifty percent of participants were girls, the average age was 11 years, and the majority (57%) were Aboriginal students. Participation in the Challenge was associated with a slight but statistically significant increase in students’€™ physical activity levels (p<0.05), and a significant decrease in weekend screen time (p<0.05). However, when stratified by Aboriginality these changes were not statistically significant for Aboriginal students. Qualitative feedback from teachers and students indicated high levels of engagement and satisfaction with the Challenge. Teachers and students reported positive impacts including increased motivation to be physically active, and improved student attendance, engagement in class activities and teamwork.
  • CONCLUSION: Participation in the Challenge was associated with increased physical activity and decreased screen time for some students. Students and teachers also reported positive social and educational outcomes. So what? The findings highlight the importance of primary schools as a setting for health promotion, and demonstrate that school-based physical activity programs can be engaging and appropriate for classes with high proportions of Aboriginal students.
  • CITATION: Passmore, E., Donato-Hunt, C., Maher, L., Havrlant, R., Hennessey, K., Milat, A., & Farrell, L. (2016). Evaluation of a pilot school-based physical activity challenge for primary students. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 28(2), 103-109. Retrieved from http://www.publish.csiro.au/HE/justaccepted/HE16021    

Using physical activity to manage ADHD symptoms: The state of the evidence

  • ABSTRACT: This article summarizes the evidence for management of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) using chronic aerobic physical activity (PA). Known studies comparing chronic aerobic PA to at least one control group are listed; uncontrolled studies and studies of non-aerobic PA are not considered. Key challenges to conducting chronic PA studies with children and youth with ADHD are summarized. After condensing information from widely varying studies, measures, and research designs, conclusions are stated in broad brush stroke terms. Preliminary evidence supports PA as beneficial for ADHD symptoms, executive function, and motor abilities. Social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes also may benefit. The preliminary state of the evidence supports PA as an adjunctive treatment for ADHD at this time, but the body and sophistication of the research to date is insufficient at present to support PA as a stand-alone treatment. Critical directions for future research are discussed.
  • CITATION: Hoza, B., Martin, C. P., Pirog, A., & Shoulberg, E. K. (2016). Using physical activity to manage ADHD symptoms: The state of the evidence. Current Psychiatry Reports, 18(12), 113. doi:10.1007/s11920-016-0749-3

Physical activity, fitness, cognitive function, and academic achievement in children: A systematic review

  • BACKGROUND: The relationship among physical activity (PA), fitness, cognitive function, and academic achievement in children is receiving considerable attention. The utility of PA to improve cognition and academic achievement is promising but uncertain; thus, this position stand will provide clarity from the available science.
  • OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to answer the following questions: 1) among children age 5-13 yr, do PA and physical fitness influence cognition, learning, brain structure, and brain function? 2) Among children age 5-13 yr, do PA, physical education (PE), and sports programs influence standardized achievement test performance and concentration/attention?
  • STUDY ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: This study used primary source articles published in English in peer-reviewed journals. Articles that presented data on, PA, fitness, or PE/sport participation and cognition, learning, brain function/structure, academic achievement, or concentration/attention were included.
  • DATA SOURCES: Two separate searches were performed to identify studies that focused on 1) cognition, learning, brain structure, and brain function and 2) standardized achievement test performance and concentration/attention. PubMed, ERIC, PsychInfo, SportDiscus, Scopus, Web of Science, Academic Search Premier, and Embase were searched (January 1990-September 2014) for studies that met inclusion criteria. Sixty-four studies met inclusion criteria for the first search (cognition/learning/brain), and 73 studies met inclusion criteria for the second search (academic achievement/concentration).
  • STUDY APPRAISAL AND SYNTHESIS METHODS: Articles were grouped by study design as cross-sectional, longitudinal, acute, or intervention trials. Considerable heterogeneity existed for several important study parameters; therefore, results were synthesized and presented by study design.
  • RESULTS: A majority of the research supports the view that physical fitness, single bouts of PA, and PA interventions benefit children’s cognitive functioning. Limited evidence was available concerning the effects of PA on learning, with only one cross-sectional study meeting the inclusion criteria. Evidence indicates that PA has a relationship to areas of the brain that support complex cognitive processes during laboratory tasks. Although favorable results have been obtained from cross-sectional and longitudinal studies related to academic achievement, the results obtained from controlled experiments evaluating the benefits of PA on academic performance are mixed, and additional, well-designed studies are needed.
  • LIMITATIONS: Limitations in evidence meeting inclusion criteria for this review include lack of randomized controlled trials, limited studies that are adequately powered, lack of information on participant characteristics, failure to blind for outcome measures, proximity of PA to measurement outcomes, and lack of accountability for known confounders. Therefore, many studies were ranked as high risk for bias because of multiple design limitations.
  • CONCLUSIONS: The present systematic review found evidence to suggest that there are positive associations among PA, fitness, cognition, and academic achievement. However, the findings are inconsistent, and the effects of numerous elements of PA on cognition remain to be explored, such as type, amount, frequency, and timing. Many questions remain regarding how to best incorporate PA within schools, such as activity breaks versus active lessons in relation to improved academic achievement. Regardless, the literature suggests no indication that increases in PA negatively affect cognition or academic achievement and PA is important for growth and development and general health. On the basis of the evidence available, the authors concluded that PA has a positive influence on cognition as well as brain structure and function; however, more research is necessary to determine mechanisms and long-term effect as well as strategies to translate laboratory findings to the school environment. Therefore, the evidence category rating is B. The literature suggests that PA and PE have a neutral effect on academic achievement. Thus, because of the limitations in the literature and the current information available, the evidence category rating for academic achievement is C.
  • CITATION: Donnelly, J.E., Hillman, C.H., Castelli, D., Etnier, J.L., Lee, S., Tomporowski, P., Lambourne, K., Szabo-Reed, A.N. (2016). Physical activity, fitness, cognitive function, and academic achievement in children: A systematic review. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(6), 1197-222. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000901

The effect of exercise on depressive symptoms in adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis

  • OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review was to examine the treatment effect of physical exercise on depressive symptoms for adolescents aged 13 to 17 years.
  • METHOD: A systematic search of 7 electronic databases identified relevant randomized controlled trials. Following removal of duplicates, 543 texts were screened for eligibility. Screening, data extraction, and trial methodological quality assessment (using the Delphi list) were undertaken by 2 independent researchers. Standardized mean differences were used for pooling postintervention depressive symptom scores.
  • RESULTS: Eleven trials met the inclusion criteria, 8 of which provided the necessary data for calculation of standardized effect size. Exercise showed a statistically significant moderate overall effect on depressive symptom reduction (standardized mean difference [SMD] = −0.48, 95% CI = −0.87, −0.10, p = .01, I2 = 67%). Among trials with higher methodological scoring, a nonsignificant moderate effect was recorded (SMD = −0.41, 95% CI = −0.86, 0.05, p = .08). In trials with exclusively clinical samples, exercise showed a statistically significant moderate effect on depressive symptoms with lower levels of heterogeneity (SMD = −0.43, 95% CI = −0.84, −0.02, p = .04, I2 = 44%).
  • CONCLUSIONPhysical exercise appears to improve depressive symptoms in adolescents, especially in clinical samples in which the moderate antidepressant effect, higher methodological quality, and lowered statistical heterogeneity suggest that exercise may be a useful treatment strategy for depression. Larger trials with clinical samples that adequately minimize the risk of bias are required for firmer conclusions on the effectiveness of exercise as an antidepressant treatment.
  • CITATION: Carter, T., Morres, I. D., Meade, O., & Callaghan, P. (2016). The effect of exercise on depressive symptoms in adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(7), 580–590. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.04.016

2015 Articles

Impact of prolonged sitting on vascular function in young girls

  • What is the central question of this study? Children are spending more than 60% of their waking day sedentary. The consequences of excessive sedentary behaviour are not well understood in the child, but there is growing evidence that with increasing sedentary time, cardiovascular risk in childhood also increases.
  • What is the main finding and its importance? Our findings show that a 3 h period of uninterrupted sitting causes a profound (33%) reduction in vascular function in young girls. Importantly, we also demonstrate that breaking up sitting with regular exercise breaks can prevent this.
  • Excessive sedentary behaviour has serious clinical and public health implications; however, the physiological changes that accompany prolonged sitting in the child are not completely understood. Herein, we examined the acute effect a prolonged period of sitting has upon superficial femoral artery function in 7- to 10-year-old girls and the impact of interrupting prolonged sitting with exercise breaks. Superficial femoral artery endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilatation, total shear rate, anterograde and retrograde shear rates and oscillatory shear index were assessed before and after two experimental conditions: a 3 h uninterrupted period of sitting (SIT) and a 3 h period of sitting interrupted each hour with 10 min of moderate-intensity exercise (EX). A mixed-model analysis of variance was used to compare between-condition and within-condition main effects, controlling for the within-subject nature of the experiment by including random effects for participant. Superficial femoral artery endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilatation decreased significantly from pre- to post-SIT (mean difference 2.2% flow-mediated dilatation; 95% confidence interval = 0.60–2.94%, P < 0.001). This relative decline of 33% was abolished in the EX intervention. Shear rates were not significantly different within conditions. Our data demonstrate the effectiveness of short but regular exercise breaks in offsetting the detrimental effects of uninterrupted sitting in young girls.
  • CITATION: McManus, A. M., Ainslie, P. N., Green, D. J., Simair, R. G., Smith, K. and Lewis, N. (2015). Impact of prolonged sitting on vascular function in young girls. Experimental Physiology. doi: 10.1113/EP085355

Increasing physical activity of children during school recess

  • ABSTRACT: Physical activity is crucial for children’s health. Fitbit accelerometers were used to measure steps of 6 elementary students during recess. The intervention included reinforcement, self-monitoring, goal setting, and feedback. Steps taken during the intervention phase (M= 1,956 steps) were 47% higher than in baseline (M = 1,326 steps), and the percentage of recess spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was higher during intervention (M = 25%) than in baseline (M= 4%). These methods successfully increased steps during recess and could be used to increase steps in other settings.
  • CITATION: Hayes, L. B., and Van Camp, C. M. (2015). Increasing physical activity of children during school recess. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 48(3), 690-695. doi:10.1002/jaba.222

The role of aerobic fitness in cortical thickness and mathematics achievement in preadolescent children

  • OVERVIEW: Growing evidence suggests that aerobic fitness benefits the brain and cognition during childhood. The present study is the first to explore cortical brain structure of higher fit and lower fit 9- and 10-year-old children, and how aerobic fitness and cortical thickness relate to academic achievement. We demonstrate that higher fit children (>70th percentile VO2max) showed decreased gray matter thickness in superior frontal cortex, superior temporal areas, and lateral occipital cortex, coupled with better mathematics achievement, compared to lower fit children (<30th percentile VO2max). Furthermore, cortical gray matter thinning in anterior and superior frontal areas was associated with superior arithmetic performance. Together, these data add to our knowledge of the biological markers of school achievement, particularly mathematics achievement, and raise the possibility that individual differences in aerobic fitness play an important role in cortical gray matter thinning during brain maturation. The establishment of predictors of academic performance is key to helping educators focus on interventions to maximize learning and success across the lifespan.
  • CITATION: Chaddock-Heyman, L., Erickson, K. I., Kienzler, C., King, M., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., & … Kramer, A. F. (2015). The role of aerobic fitness in cortical thickness and mathematics achievement in preadolescent children. Plos ONE, 10(8), 1-11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134115

Sit, Stand, Learn: Using workplace wellness Sit-Stand results to improve student behavior and learning

  • OVERVIEW: Prolonged sitting time is a risk factor for adverse health outcomes. Based on preliminary evidence that intermittent standing improves performance among office workers, it is entirely reasonable to consider that a similar approach in an educational setting will generate a positive impact as well. Students were encouraged to stand for at least 5 minutes every 30 minutes and could choose to stand longer if desired. Notable improvements were observed using the Quality of Work Scale. This pilot project represents a promising example of practice-based evidence, translating research from one setting (workplace) to another (classroom).
  • CITATION: Katz, A., Mulder, B., & Pronk, N. (2015). Sit, stand, learn: Using workplace wellness sit-stand results to improve student behavior and learning. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 19(1), 42–44. http://doi.org/10.1249/FIT.0000000000000089

Implementation of school based physical activity interventions: A systematic review

  • OBJECTIVE: Implementation science is an emerging area in physical activity (PA) research. We sought to establish the current state of the evidence related to implementation of school-based PA models to explore 1) the relationship between implementation and health outcomes, and 2) factors that influence implementation.
  • METHODS: We searched 7 electronic databases (1995–2014) and included controlled studies of school-based PA programmes for healthy youth (6–18 y) measuring at least one physical health-related outcome. For objective 1, studies linked implementation level to student-level health outcome(s). For objective 2, studies reported factors associated with implementation.
  • RESULTS: There was substantial variability in how health outcomes and implementation were assessed. Few studies linked implementation and health outcomes (n = 15 interventions). Most (11/15) reported a positive relationship between implementation and at least one health outcome. Implementation factors were reported in 29 interventions. Of 22 unique categories, time was the most prevalent influencing factor followed by resource availability/quality and supportive school climate.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Implementation evaluation supports scale-up of effective school-based PA interventions and thus population-level change. Our review serves as a call to action to 1) address the link between implementation and outcome within the school-based PA literature and 2) improve and standardize definitions and measurement of implementation.
  • CITATION: Naylor, P.-J., Nettlefold, L., Race, D., Hoy, C., Ashe, M. C., Wharf Higgins, J., & McKay, H. A. (2015). Implementation of school based physical activity interventions: A systematic review. Preventive Medicine, 72, 95–115. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.12.034

2014 Articles

Physical exercise and executive functions in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis

  • PURPOSE: The goal of this meta-analysis was to aggregate available empirical studies on the effects of physical exercise on executive functions in preadolescent children (6–12 years of age), adolescents (13–17 years of age) and young adults (18–35 years of age).
  • METHOD: The electronic databases PubMed, EMBASE and SPORTDiscus were searched for relevant studies reporting on the effects of physical exercise on executive functions. Nineteen studies were selected.
  • RESULTS: There was a significant overall effect of acute physical exercise on executive functions (d=0.52, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.76, p<0.001). There were no significant differences between the three age groups (Q (2)=0.13, p=0.94). Furthermore, no significant overall effect of chronic physical exercise (d=0.14, 95%CI −0.04 to 0.32, p=0.19) on executive functions (Q (1)=5.08, p<0.05) was found. Meta-analytic effect sizes were calculated for the effects of acute physical exercise on the domain’s inhibition/interference control (d=0.46, 95% CI 0.33 to 0.60, p<0.001) and working memory (d=0.05, 95% CI −0.51 to 0.61, p=0.86) as well as for the effects of chronic physical exercise on planning (d=0.16, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.89, p=0.18).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that acute physical exercise enhances executive functioning. The number of studies on chronic physical exercise is limited and it should be investigated whether chronic physical exercise shows effects on executive functions comparable to acute physical exercise. This is highly relevant in preadolescent children and adolescents, given the importance of well-developed executive functions for daily life functioning and the current increase in sedentary behaviour in these age groups.
  • CITATION: Verburgh, L., Konigs, M., Scherder, E., & Oosterlaan, J. (2014). Physical exercise and executive functions in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(12), 973-979.

Scheduled physical activity is associated with better academic performance in Chilean school-age children

  • BACKGROUND: This study was carried out to examine the association between systematic physical activity and academic per- formance in school kids after controlling for potential sociodemographic and educational confounders.
  • METHODS: In a random sample of 1271 students from urban Santiago, attending 5th and 9th grade, who took the 2009 System for the Assessment of Educational Quality (SIMCE) tests, we measured physical activity habits, anthropometric characteristics, and socioeconomic status. Academic performance was measured by the standardized SIMCE tests. Logistic regressions assessed the relationship between the allocation of time to weekly scheduled exercise, potential confounding factors, and individual academic performance.
  • RESULTS: About 80% of students reported less than 2 hours of weekly scheduled exercise, while 10.6% and 10.2% reported 2 to 4 hours/week and more than 4 hours/week, respectively. Devoting more than 4 hours/week to scheduled exercise significantly increased (P < .01) the odds of having SIMCE composite z-scores ≥ 50th percentile (OR: 2.3, 95% CI: 1.4 to 3.6) and ≥ 75th percentile (OR: 2.1, 95% CI: 1.3–3.3).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Better academic performance was associated with a higher allocation of time to scheduled exercise in school-age children.
  • CITATION: Burrows, R., Correa-Burrows, P., Orellana, Y., Almagiá, A., Lizana, P., & Ivanovic, D. (2014). Scheduled physical activity is associated with better academic performance in Chilean school-age children. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 11(8), 1600–1606.

Importance of all movement behaviors in a 24 hour period for overall health

  • ABSTRACT: Physical inactivity and childhood obesity are well-recognized public health concerns that are associated with a range of adverse health outcomes. Historically, the benefits of physical activity (e.g., moderate-to-vigorous physical activity—MVPA) to overall health have dominated discussions and emerging evidence indicates that a broader, more integrated approach is needed to better understand and address current public health crises.
  • Existing guidelines for children and youth around the world only focus on MVPA, and recently sedentary behavior, despite an accumulating body of evidence showing that light-intensity physical activity (LPA) such as walking can provide important health benefits. Furthermore, there is accumulating support for the importance of adequate sleep and that these behaviors moderate the health impact of each other. Ignoring the other components of the movement continuum (i.e., sleep, sedentary time, LPA) while focusing efforts exclusively on MVPA (accounting for <5% of the time in a 24 h period) limits the potential to optimize the health benefits of movement behaviors.
  • In order to address this limitation, experts in Canada are currently developing the world’s first Integrated 24 Hour Movement Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth to help advance an integrated healthy active living agenda that has the potential to significantly improve the overall health and well-being of children and youth.
  • CITATION: Chaput, J.-P., Carson, V., Gray, C. E., & Tremblay, M. S. (2014). Importance of all movement behaviors in a 24 hour period for overall health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(12), 12575–12581. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph111212575

Long-term effect of a school-based physical activity program (KISS) on fitness and adiposity in children: A cluster-randomized controlled trial

  • BACKGROUND: School-based intervention studies promoting a healthy lifestyle have shown favorable immediate health effects. However, there is a striking paucity on long-term follow-ups. The aim of this study was therefore to assess the 3 yr-follow-up of a cluster-randomized controlled school-based physical activity program over nine month with beneficial immediate effects on body fat, aerobic fitness and physical activity.
  • METHODS: Initially, 28 classes from 15 elementary schools in Switzerland were grouped into an intervention (16 classes from 9 schools, n = 297 children) and a control arm (12 classes from 6 schools, n = 205 children) after stratification for grade (1st and 5th graders). Three years after the end of the multi-component physical activity program of nine months including daily physical education (i.e. two additional lessons per week on top of three regular lessons), short physical activity breaks during academic lessons, and daily physical activity homework, 289 (58%) participated in the follow-up. Primary outcome measures included body fat (sum of four skinfolds), aerobic fitness (shuttle run test), physical activity (accelerometry), and quality of life (questionnaires).
  • FINDINGS: After adjustment for grade, gender, baseline value and clustering within classes, children in the intervention arm compared with controls had a significantly higher average level of aerobic fitness at follow-up (0.373 z-score units [95%-CI: 0.157 to 0.59, p = 001] corresponding to a shift from the 50th to the 65th percentile between baseline and follow-up), while the immediate beneficial effects on the other primary outcomes were not sustained.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Apart from aerobic fitness, beneficial effects seen after one year were not maintained when the intervention was stopped. A continuous intervention seems necessary to maintain overall beneficial health effects as reached at the end of the intervention.
  • CITATION: Meyer, U., Schindler, C., Zahner, L., Ernst, D., Hebestreit, H., van Mechelen, W., … Kriemler, S. (2014). Long-term effect of a school-based physical activity program (KISS) on fitness and adiposity in children: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 9(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087929

2013 Articles

Estimated energy expenditures for school-based policies and active living

  • BACKGROUND: Despite overwhelming evidence of the health benefıts of physical activity, most American youth are not meeting the 60 minutes per day recommendation for moderate- to vigorous- intensity physical activity (MVPA). Policy changes have the potential to bring about substantial increases in physical activity in youth, within school and community settings.
  • PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to quantify the increase in energy expenditure for school- based policies and built environment changes.
  • METHODS: Scientifıc literature reviews were consulted, and more than 300 published studies (1995– 2011) in English were identifıed based on titles and abstracts. After an initial screening, 85 articles were included. Study quality was assessed, and the impact of various strategies for increasing physical activity in youth was estimated from objective measurements/direct observation.
  • RESULTS: Within school settings, the average minutes of MVPA gained per school day for studies in each intervention category were as follows: mandatory physical education (23 minutes); classroom activity breaks (19 minutes); afterschool activity programs (10 minutes); standardized physical education curricula (6 minutes more than traditional physical education); modifıed playgrounds (6 minutes); and modifıed recess (5 minutes more than traditional recess). Within community settings, signifıcant MVPA was associated with active commuting (16 minutes) and park renovations (12 minutes), but proximity to parks had a small effect (1 minute). No conclusions could be drawn regarding joint-use agreements, because of a lack of studies quantifying their impact on energy expenditure.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Of the various policies and built environment changes examined, the largest effects were seen with mandatory physical education, classroom activity breaks, and active commuting to school. Policymakers can use this information along with estimates of the cost, feasibility, and population reach, to identify the best options for increasing physical activity in youth.
  • CITATION: Bassett, D. R., Fitzhugh, E. C., Heath, G. W., Erwin, P. C., Frederick, G. M., Wolff, D. L., … Stout, A. B. (2013). Estimated energy expenditures for school-based policies and active living. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(2), 108–113. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.10.017

2011 Articles

Aerobic fitness and executive control of relational memory in preadolescent children

  • PURPOSE: The neurocognitive benefits of an active lifestyle in childhood have public health and educational implications, especially as children in today’s technological society are becoming increasingly overweight, unhealthy, and unfit. Human and animal studies show that aerobic exercise affects both prefrontal executive control and hippocampal function. This investigation attempts to bridge these research threads by using a cognitive task to examine the relationship between aerobic fitness and executive control of relational memory in preadolescent 9- and 10-yr-old children.
  • METHOD: Higher-fit and lower-fit children studied faces and houses under individual item (i.e., nonrelational) and relational encoding conditions, and the children were subsequently tested with recognition memory trials consisting of previously studied pairs and pairs of completely new items. With each subject participating in both item and relational encoding conditions, and with recognition test trials amenable to the use of both item and relational memory cues, this task afforded a challenge to the flexible use of memory, specifically in the use of appropriate encoding and retrieval strategies. Hence, the task provided a test of both executive control and memory processes.
  • RESULTS: Lower-fit children showed poorer recognition memory performance than higher-fit children, selectively in the relational encoding condition. No association between aerobic fitness and recognition performance was found for faces and houses studied as individual items (i.e., nonrelationally).
  • CONCLUSIONS: The findings implicate childhood aerobic fitness as a factor in the ability to use effective encoding and retrieval executive control processes for relational memory material and, possibly, in the strategic engagement of prefrontal- and hippocampal-dependent systems.
  • CITATION: Chaddock, L., Hillman, C. H., Buck, S. M., & Cohen, N. J. (2011). Aerobic fitness and executive control of relational memory in preadolescent children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 43(2), 344–349.

The relationship between physical education performance, fitness tests, and academic achievement in elementary school

  • BACKGROUND: The relationship between physical education and academic achievement has been widely discussed and much work has been done to date. However, more studies need to be conducted to ascertain the relationship between academic achievements, physical education and sports participation in Taiwan.
  • OVERVIEW: The purpose of the present study is to exam the relationship among physical education performance, physical fitness tests and academic achievement. Methodologically, documentary analysis, and questionnaires were conducted to the survey. A total of 476 pupils aged 11-12 participated in this study. Descriptive, partial correlation and linear regression were utilized to data analysis. Results of this study revealed a positive and significant relationship between students’ academic achievement, physical education and physical test.
  • CONCLUSION: To conclude, this study may be of importance in estimating the relationship between academic achievement, physical education and fitness tests, as well as in providing powerful evidence for parents, teachers and officers while rethinking the significance of physical activities in future life.
  • CITATION: Chih, C.H., Chen, J-F. (2011). The relationship between physical education performance, fitness tests, and academic achievement in elementary school. International Journal of Sport & Society, 2(1), 65-75.

Recess, physical education, and elementary school student outcomes

  • OVERVIEW: Today’s children experience a decreased amount of time at recess and fewer physical education (PE) classes throughout the school day. Breaks for physical activity limit class time for academics, potentially reducing learning. However, breaks may improve alertness and achievement. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999, we evaluate how recess and PE in elementary school influence children’s learning.
  • RESULTS: We find no statistically significant or economically significant impacts of weekly recess or PE time on student learning for kindergarteners through fifth graders. For example, in kindergarten, adding an hour a week of recess reduces the average test score gain in reading by a statistically insignificant 0.01 standard deviations. An additional 49 min per week of PE in kindergarten improves reading test score gains by a statistically insignificant 0.05 standard deviations. We find no statistical difference in the male and female students’ response to recess and PE. Evidence suggests that recess and PE do not harm student outcomes.
  • CITATION: Dills, A. K., Morganb, H. N., & Rotthoff, K. W. (2011). Recess, physical education, and elementary school student outcomes. Economics of Education Review, 30(5), 889–900.

The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: A systematic review of the literature

  • 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.
  • CITATION: Rasberry, C. N., Lee, S. M., Robin, L., Laris, B. A., Russell, L. A., Coyle, K. K., & Nihiser, A. J. (2011). The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: A systematic review of the literature. Preventive Medicine, 52, Supplement, S10–S20. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.01.027

Associations of physical fitness and academic performance among schoolchildren

  • BACKGROUND: Public schools provide opportunities for physical activity and fitness surveillance, but are evaluated and funded based on students’ academic performance, not their physical fitness. Empirical research evaluating the connections between fitness and academic performance is needed to justify curriculum allocations to physical activity programs.
  • METHODS: Analyses were based on a convenience sample of 254,743 individually matched standardized academic (TAKS™) and fitness (FITNESSGRAM®) test records of students, grades 3-11, collected by 13 Texas school districts. We categorized fitness results in quintiles by age and gender and used mixed effects regression models to compare the academic performance of the top and bottom fitness groups for each test.
  • RESULTS: All fitness variables except body mass index (BMI) showed significant, positive associations with academic performance after adjustment for socio-demographic covariates, with standardized mean difference effect sizes ranging from .07 to .34. Cardiovascular fitness showed the largest interquintile difference in TAKS score (32-75 points), followed by curl-ups. Additional adjustment for BMI and curl-ups showed dose-response associations between cardiovascular fitness and academic scores (p < .001 for both genders and outcomes). Analysis of BMI demonstrated limited, nonlinear association with academic performance after socio-demographic and fitness adjustments.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Fitness was strongly and significantly related to academic performance. Cardiovascular fitness showed a dose-response association with academic performance independent of other socio-demographic and fitness variables. The association appears to peak in late middle to early high school. We recommend that policymakers consider physical education (PE) mandates in middle high school, school administrators consider increasing PE time, and PE practitioners emphasize cardiovascular fitness.
  • CITATION: Van Dusen, D. P., Kelder, S. H., Kohl, H. W., Ranjit, N., & Perry, C. L. (2011). Associations of physical fitness and academic performance among schoolchildren. Journal of School Health, 81(12), 733–740. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00652.x

2010 and Prior Articles

Aerobic fitness thresholds associated with fifth grade academic achievement

  • BACKGROUND: Whereas effects of physical fitness and physical activity on cognitive function have been documented, little is known about how they are related.
  • PURPOSE: This study assessed student aerobic fitness measured by FITNESSGRAM Mile times and/or Pacer circuits and whether the nature of the association between aerobic fitness and standardized academic performance is dose-response or threshold related.
  • METHODS: Standardized academic test scores and aerobic capacity scores were collected from two cohorts of 5th grade students over two years. The Mile run and Pacer circuits results were compared to patterns in students’ academic test scores.
  • RESULTS: Sectioning of Mile times and Pacer circuits revealed a sharp peak in academic performance for boys who completed the Mile in 9 minutes or less. Girls’ Pacer revealed peaks in academic performance at 12 and 30 circuits.
  • DISCUSSION: Results demonstrate that select achievements in the Mile or Pacer account for significant increases in academic performance on standardized tests.
  • APPLICATION: This study identifies aerobic fitness points which, if achieved, offer the greatest probability of increased academic success in fifth graders. Physical education, cross-curricular thematic units, and club activities can be portals of opportunity to increase moderate to vigorous physical activity and fitness in students. Furthermore, school-based physical activity and fitness opportunities may positively impact health risk factors associated with childhood obesity. Policies that increase aerobic activity opportunities in the school setting may increase overall academic performance, encourage positive health habits and improve immediate and future overall health.
  • CITATION: Cottrell, L. A., Davis, C. L., Northrup, K. L., & Wittberg, R. (2010). Aerobic fitness thresholds associated with fifth grade academic achievement. American Journal of Health Education, 41(5), 284+.

The effect of acute physical activity on cognitive function during development

  • OVERVIEW: Although accumulating research suggests that acute physical exercise ameliorates cognitive function in adults, little is known about the effects of acute exercise on cognition during development. We assessed simple reaction and choice response times in 7- and 10-year-old boys (n = 36 per age group). Half of the children completed 30 min of aerobic exercise, whilst the other half watched television. Each child was tested immediately prior to and immediately following the intervention.
  • RESULTS: Compared to the control group, the children in the exercise condition showed a significant improvement on both tasks, with a better outcome for the choice compared to the simple task. These findings indicate that physical exercise also has an impact on cognitive functioning in children.
  • CITATION: Ellemberg, D., & St. Louis-Deschênes, M. (2010). The effect of acute physical activity on cognitive function during development. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 122–126.

The association of health-related fitness with indicators of academic performance in Texas schools

  • OVERVIEW: This study examined the associations between indicators of health-related physical fitness (cardiovascular fitness and body mass index) and academic performance (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills).
  • RESULTS: Partial correlations were generally stronger for cardiovascular fitness than body mass index and consistently stronger in the middle school grades. Mixed-model regression analyses revealed modest associations between fitness and academic achievement after controlling for potentially confounding variables. The effects of fitness on academic achievement were positive but small. A separate logistic regression analysis indicated that higher fitness rates increased the odds of schools achieving exemplary/recognized school status within the state.
  • CONCLUSIONS: School fitness attainment is an indicator of higher performing schools. Direction of causality cannot be inferred due to the cross-sectional nature of the data.
  • CITATION: Cooper, K. H., Haskell, W. H., Jackson, A. W., Meredith, M. D., Morrow, J. R., Jr., & Welk, G. J. (2010). The association of health-related fitness with indicators of academic performance in Texas schools. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 81(3), S16+.

Physical activity improves mental rotation performance

  • OVERVIEW: Even there seemed to be general knowledge that physical activity enhanced spatial cognitive performance almost none experimental studies on this influence exist. For that the influence of physical activity on mental rotation performance is investigated in this study. Mental rotation is the ability to imagine how an object would look if rotated away from the original orientation. Two groups of 44 students of educational science each solved a psychometrical mental rotation task with three-dimensional block figures. After this, the participants of the physical activity group took part in a sport lesson, whereas the participants of the cognitive activity group attended an oral lesson of kinematics. Both lessons took 45 minutes. Thereafter, all participants solved the mental rotation task again.
  • RESULTS: The results showed that the participants of the physical activity group improved their mental rotation performance whereas the participants of the cognitive activity showed no improvement.
  • CITATION: Jansen, P., & Pietsch, S. (2010). Physical activity improves mental rotation performance. Creative Education, 1(1), 58+.

Cardiorespiratory fitness and the flexible modulation of cognitive control in preadolescent children

  • OVERVIEW: The influence of cardiorespiratory fitness on the modulation of cognitive control was assessed in preadolescent children separated into higher- and lower-fit groups. Participants completed compatible and incompatible stimulus–response conditions of a modified flanker task, consisting of congruent and incongruent arrays, while ERPs and task performance were concurrently measured.
  • RESULTS: Findings revealed decreased response accuracy for lower- relative to higher-fit participants with a selectively larger deficit in response to the incompatible stimulus–response condition, requiring the greatest amount of cognitive control. In contrast, higher-fit participants maintained response accuracy across stimulus–response compatibility conditions. Neuroelectric measures indicated that higher-fit, relative to lower-fit, participants exhibited global increases in P3 amplitude and shorter P3 latency, as well as greater modulation of P3 amplitude between the compatible and incompatible stimulus–response conditions. Similarly, higher-fit participants exhibited smaller error-related negativity (ERN) amplitudes in the compatible condition, and greater modulation of the ERN between the compatible and incompatible conditions, relative to lower-fit participants who exhibited large ERN amplitudes across both conditions.
  • CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that lower-fit children may have more difficulty than higher-fit children in the flexible modulation of cognitive control processes to meet task demands.
  • CITATION: Pontifex, M.B., Raine, L.B., Johnson, C.R., Chaddock, L., Voss, M.W., Cohen, N.J., Hillman, C.H. (2010). Cardiorespiratory fitness and the flexible modulation of cognitive control in preadolescent children. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(6), 1332-1345.

Low aerobic fitness and obesity are associated with lower standardized test scores in children

  • OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether aerobic fitness and obesity in school children are associated with standardized test performance.
  • STUDY DESIGN: Ethnically diverse (n = 1989) 5th, 7th, and 9th graders attending California schools comprised the sample. Aerobic fitness was determined by a 1-mile run/walk test; body mass index (BMI) was obtained from state-mandated measurements. California standardized test scores were obtained from the school district.
  • RESULTS: Students whose mile run/walk times exceeded California Fitnessgram standards or whose BMI exceeded Centers for Disease Control sex- and age-specific body weight standards scored lower on California standardized math, reading, and language tests than students with desirable BMI status or fitness level, even after controlling for parent education among other covariates. Ethnic differences in standardized test scores were consistent with ethnic differences in obesity status and aerobic fitness. BMI-for-age was no longer a significant multivariate predictor when covariates included fitness level.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Low aerobic fitness is common among youth and varies among ethnic groups, and aerobic fitness level predicts performance on standardized tests across ethnic groups. More research is needed to uncover the physiological mechanisms by which aerobic fitness may contribute to performance on standardized academic tests.
  • CITATION: Roberts, C.K., Freed, B., McCarthy, W.J. (2010). Low aerobic fitness and obesity are associated with lower standardized test scores in children. The Journal of Pediatrics, 156(5), 711-718.e1, ISSN 0022-3476, 10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.11.039.

The effects of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children

  • OVERVIEW: The effect of an acute bout of moderate treadmill walking on behavioral and neuroelectric indexes of the cognitive control of attention and applied aspects of cognition involved in school-based academic performance were assessed. A within-subjects design included 20 preadolescent participants (age=9.5+/-0.5 years; eight female) to assess exercise-induced changes in performance during a modified flanker task and the Wide Range Achievement Test 3. The resting session consisted of cognitive testing followed by a cardiorespiratory fitness assessment to determine aerobic fitness. The exercise session consisted of 20 min of walking on a motor-driven treadmill at 60% of estimated maximum heart rate followed by cognitive testing once heart rate returned to within 10% of pre-exercise levels.
  • CONCLUSIONS: Results indicated an improvement in response accuracy, larger P3 amplitude, and better performance on the academic achievement test following aerobic exercise relative to the resting session. Collectively, these findings indicate that single, acute bouts of moderately-intense aerobic exercise (i.e. walking) may improve the cognitive control of attention in preadolescent children, and further support the use of moderate acute exercise as a contributing factor for increasing attention and academic performance. These data suggest that single bouts of exercise affect specific underlying processes that support cognitive health and may be necessary for effective functioning across the lifespan.
  • CITATION: Hillman, C. H., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L., Castelli, D. M., Hall, E. E., & Kramer, A. F. (2009). The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 159, 1044–1054.

School recess and group classroom behavior

  • OBJECTIVES: This study examines the amount of recess that children 8 to 9 years of age receive in the United States and compares the group classroom behavior of children receiving daily recess with that of children not receiving daily recess.
  • METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of a public-use data set, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998 –1999, third-grade data set. Children were categorized into 2 levels of recess exposure, that is, none/minimal break (<1 break of 15 minutes/day) or some recess. Some recess was further categorized into 5 levels on the basis of frequency and duration of recess. Child, parent, school, and classroom characteristics of those with and without recess were compared. The group classroom behavior was assessed by using the teacher’s rating of class behavior.
  • RESULTS: Complete data were available for 10 301 to 11 624 children 8 to 9 years of age. There were equal numbers of boys and girls (boys: 50.3%). Children exposed to none/minimal break (30%) were much more likely to be black, to be from families with lower incomes and lower levels of education, to live in large cities, to be from the Northeast or South, and to attend public school, compared with those with recess. Teacher’s rating of classroom behavior scores were better for children with some recess than for those with none/minimal break. This finding was maintained in multivariate regression analysis. However, among children receiving daily recess, the teacher’s rating of class behavior scores did not differ significantly according to the level of exposure.
  • CONCLUSIONS: These results indicated that, among 8- to 9-year-old children, having ≥1 daily recess period of >15 minutes in length was associated with better teacher’s rating of class behavior scores. This study suggests that schoolchildren in this age group should be provided with daily recess.
  • CITATION: Barros, R. M., Silver, E. J., & Stein, R. E. (2009). School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics, 123(2), 431–436. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-2825

Is there a relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement? Positive results from public school children in the Northeastern United States

  • OBJECTIVES: To determine relationships between physical fitness and academic achievement in diverse, urban public school children.
  • METHODS: This cross-sectional study used public school data from 2004 to 2005. Academic achievement was assessed as a passing score on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) achievement tests in Mathematics (fourth, sixth, and eighth grade, n = 1103) and in English (fourth and seventh grade, n = 744). Fitness achievement was assessed as the number of physical fitness tests passed during physical education (PE). Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess the probability of passing the MCAS tests, controlling for students’ weight status (BMI z score), ethnicity, gender, grade, and socioeconomic status (school lunch enrollment).
  • RESULTS: The odds of passing both the MCAS Mathematics test and the MCAS English test increased as the number of fitness tests passed increased (p < .0001 and p < .05, respectively).
  • CONCLUSIONS: Results show statistically significant relationships between fitness and academic achievement, though the direction of causation is not known. While more research is required, promoting fitness by increasing opportunities for physical activity during PE, recess, and out of school time may support academic achievement.
  • CITATION: Chomitz, V. R., Slining, M. M., McGowan, R. J., Mitchell, S. E., Dawson, G. F., & Hacker, K. A. (2009). Is there a relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement? Positive results from public school children in the Northeastern United States. Journal of School Health, 79(1), 30-37. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2008.00371.x

Effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index in children: A meta-analysis

  • BACKGROUND: The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. Many local governments have enacted policies to increase physical activity in schools as a way to combat childhood obesity. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index (BMI) in children.
  • METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials up to September 2008. We also hand-searched relevant journals and article reference lists. We included randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials that had objective data for BMI from before and after the intervention, that involved school-based physical activity interventions and that lasted for a minimum of 6 months.
  • RESULTS: Of 398 potentially relevant articles that we identified, 18 studies involving 18 141 children met the inclusion criteria. The participants were primarily elementary school children. The study duration ranged from 6 months to 3 years. In 15 of these 18 studies, there was some type of co-intervention. Meta-analysis showed that BMI did not improve with physical activity interventions (weighted mean difference –0.05 kg/m2, 95% confidence interval –0.19 to 0.10). We found no consistent changes in other measures of body composition.
  • INTERPRETATION: School-based physical activity interventions did not improve BMI, although they had other beneficial health effects. Current population-based policies that mandate increased physical activity in schools are unlikely to have a significant effect on the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity.
  • CITATION: Harris, K. C., Kuramoto, L. K., Schulzer, M., & Retallack, J. E. (2009). Effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index in children: a meta-analysis. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 180(7), 719–726. doi:10.1503/cmaj.080966

Physical activity and mental performance in preadolescents: Effects of acute exercise on free-recall memory

  • OVERVIEW: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of physical activity on memory performance in preadolescents. Fifty-two students aged 11–12 years performed a test involving free-recall of items from a 20-item word list during three separate testing sessions at school. Two sessions directly followed physical education lessons (aerobic circuit training or team games) characterized by similar exercise intensities, but different cognitive and social interaction demands. A third, baseline session was not preceded by any lesson. For each session, the number of items recalled from the whole list and from its primacy and recency portions was recorded twice under conditions of immediate and delayed recall.
  • RESULTS: Immediate recall scores in both primacy and recency portions were higher following the team games than in the baseline session, whereas delayed recall scores in the recency portion were higher after both team game and aerobic training. Results suggest that an acute bout of submaximal exercise, as performed by students during physical education class, may facilitate memory storage. The differential effects of qualitatively unique types of exercise on immediate and delayed recall suggest that memory storage processes may be facilitated not only by exercise-induced increases in physiological arousal, but also by the cognitive activation induced by cognitive exercise demands. Results are discussed highlighting the importance of relationships between acute exercise and memory storage for mental health promotion.
  • CITATION: Pesce, C., Crova, C., Cereatti, L., Casella, R., & Bellucci, M. (2009). Physical activity and mental performance in preadolescents: Effects of acute exercise on free-recall memory. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2, 16–22.

Children’s physical fitness and academic performance

  • BACKGROUND: Childhood obesity is a major public health threat. Increased fitness may have a positive influence on cognitive performance in both adults and children.
  • PURPOSE: To examine which aspects of children’s fitness assessment are associated with their performance on four different academic areas.
  • METHODS: FITNESSGRAM measures aerobic capacity, abdominal strength, upper body strength/endurance, flexibility, and trunk lift. Gender and a socio-economic status proxy were compared with mean group performance scores across four subscales: mathematics, reading/language arts, science, and social studies of a statewide standardized academic performance test on a sample of 968 5th grade students (50.7% male; mean age = 10.6 years).
  • RESULTS: Achievement test scores were significantly better for children who were in the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) for aerobic capacity and abdominal strength tests when compared to children who were unable to achieve the healthy zone. Children in the HFZ for upper body strength performed significantly better in math. Children in the HFZ for flexibility performed significantly better in math and science. No differences were found in academic performance when children in the HFZ for trunk lift were compared to children not in the healthy zone. When all FITNESSGRAM measures were used in a full factorial ANOVA with Body Mass Index (BMI), gender and meal program (a proxy variable for socioeconomic status) as covariates, aerobic capacity was found to be the only fitness variable consistently appearing as important. It was always significant as a main effect variable while no other main effect fitness variable achieved significance for any WESTEST subject. Two-way, three-way, and four-way interactions always included aerobic fitness and no other fitness measure was universal in these interactions.
  • DISCUSSION: Whereas, aerobic fitness appears universally important in academic success, additional mechanisms may be at work due to the several interactions that achieved significance. The interactions may be an indication of the importance of overall fitness in addition to aerobic fitness. These findings support the development and implementation of childhood cardiovascular risk surveillance programs that not only evaluate children’s overweight risks but also their fitness. Translation to Health Education Practice: Increased focus on ways to improve children’s fitness levels may create the need to reevaluate current policy recommendations for children’s physical education.
  • CITATION: Wittberg, R. A., Northrup, K. L., & Cottrel, L. (2009). Children’s physical fitness and academic performance. American Journal of Health Education, 40(1), 30–36. doi:10.1080/19325037.2009.10599076

Aerobic fitness influences on Stroop task performance in preadolescent children

  • PURPOSE: We investigated the relation between aerobic fitness and interference control–one component of executive control–in 74 children between 7 and 12 yr of age.
  • METHOD: Participants completed a paper-and-pencil version of the Stroop color-word task and the FITNESSGRAM, a valid and reliable test measuring different components of physical fitness (i.e., aerobic, muscle, and body composition). During each condition of the Stroop task (word, color, color-word), participants were instructed to read aloud as many items as possible in 45 s. Data were also collected on IQ and personal and health demographics to account for other factors influencing the relationship between fitness and executive function.
  • RESULTS: Older children and those with higher IQ responded to more items correctly during each of the three conditions. Greater aerobic fitness was also associated with better performance on each of the three Stroop conditions independently of the other variables.
  • CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that increased levels of fitness may be beneficial to cognition during preadolescent development.
  • CITATION: Buck, S.M., Hillman, C.H., & Castelli, D.M. (2008). Aerobic fitness influences on Stroop task performance in preadolescent children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40, 166-172.

Physical fitness and academic achievement in third- and fifth-grade students

  • OVERVIEW: The relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement has received much attention owing to the increasing prevalence of children who are overweight and unfit, as well as the inescapable pressure on schools to produce students who meet academic standards.
  • RESULTS: This study examined 259 public school students in third and fifth grades and found that field tests of physical fitness were positively related to academic achievement. Specifically, aerobic capacity was positively associated with achievement, whereas BMI was inversely related. Associations were demonstrated in total academic achievement, mathematics achievement, and reading achievement, thus suggesting that aspects of physical fitness may be globally related to academic performance in preadolescents. The findings are discussed with regards to maximizing school performance and the implications for educational policies.
  • CITATION: Castelli, D. M., Hillman, C. H., Buck, S. M., & Erwin, H. E. (2007). Physical fitness and academic achievement in third- and fifth-grade students. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 29(2), 239-252.

Effects of aerobic exercise on overweight children’s cognitive functioning

  • OVERVIEW: The study tested the effect of aerobic exercise training on executive function in overweight children. Ninety-four sedentary, overweight but otherwise healthy children (mean age = 9.2 years, body mass index 85th percentile) were randomized to a low-dose (20 min/day exercise), high-dose (40 min/day exercise), or control condition. Exercise sessions met 5 days/week for 15 weeks. The Cognitive Assessment System (CAS), a standardized test of cognitive processes, was administered individually before and following intervention.
  • RESULTS: Analysis of covariance on posttest scores revealed effects on executive function. Group differences emerged for the CAS Planning scale (p = .03). Planning scores for the high-dose group were significantly greater than those of the control group.
  • CONCLUSION: Exercise may prove to be a simple, yet important, method of enhancing aspects of children’s mental functioning that are central to cognitive and social development.
  • CITATION: Davis, C. L., Tomporowski, P. D., Boyle, C. A., Waller, J. L., Miller, P. H., Naglieri, J. A., & Gregoski, M. (2007). Effects of aerobic exercise on overweight children’s cognitive functioning. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78(5), 510–519. doi:10.1080/02701367.2007.10599450

Physical fitness as a predictor of cognitive functioning in healthy children

  • BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: In older adults, there are correlations between cognitive test scores and physical fitness indicators such as VO2max and grip strength. Recent findings have indicated that physical activity is related to improved cognitive performance in children but do not provide any information about whether physical fitness is a significant predictor of cognitive functioning and whether its influence differs for single-component processing resources and multiple-component higher-order cognitive functions.
  • SUBJECTS: 203 students (102 boys, 101 girls), aged 8 to 16 years, in randomly selected classes from elementary (grades 3, 4) and middle schools (grades 7, 8) throughout Giessen, Germany, participated in the study.
  • METHOD: Physical fitness was assessed with the 6-min run, a 20-m sprint, a coordination task, the one-leg standing test, a medicine ball throw, push-ups, and the sit-and-reach test. Furthermore, we assessed attention, working memory, and speed (Stroop color-word test, digit span, digit symbol test) and executive functions (trail making test).
  • RESULTS: A MANOVA with the factors physical fitness, age group, and sex on each outcome measure revealed a significant main effect of age group (p < .001) and fitness (p < .001), indicating an increase in cognitive functioning with higher age and better fitness. Univariate tests indicated a significant influence of fitness only in executive functioning and speed, but not in working memory and attention.
  • CONCLUSIONS: In the light of previous research findings that executive functions play a dominant role in writing development, the results are promising and suggest that physical fitness may lead to general improvements in academic achievement but highlight the need to examine the influence of physical fitness on academic achievement with a longitudinal approach.
  • CITATION: Schott, N. M. (2007). Physical fitness as a predictor of cognitive functioning in healthy children. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 29, S22–S22.

Integration: Helping to get our kids moving and learning

  • ABSTRACT: Over the past decade, schools and teachers alike have had increased pressure placed upon them with respect to student academic performance (Maeda & Murata, 2004). As a result of this focus targeting academic performance on standardized tests, the quality and quantity of elementary school based physical education programs are slowly dwindling. However, there is hope within our grasp. Integration, defined as combining two or more subject areas to help students understand and learn through different modes, is neither a new topic nor discovery. Research on physical activity and physical fitness has provided strong evidence for integration as a major teaching method to help increase student learning (Blaydes, 2000; California Department of Education, 2005; Michaud & Wild, 1991; NASPE, 2002). Integration is not only suspected of enhancing student academic performance, it also allows for the invaluable structured physical education curriculum to be taught as well as benefited by all students.
  • CITATION: Hall, E. (2007). Integration: Helping to get our kids moving and learning. The Physical Educator, 64(3). Retrieved from https://js.sagamorepub.com/pe/article/view/2154

Relation of academic performance to physical activity and fitness in children

  • OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to examine the association of scholastic performance with physical activity and fitness of children. To do so, school ratings of scholastic ability on a five-point scale for a nationally representative sample of 7,961 Australian schoolchildren aged 7-15 years were compared with physical activity and fitness measurements.
  • RESULTS: Consistently across age and sex groups, the ratings were significantly correlated with questionnaire measures of physical activity and with performance on the 1.6-kilometer run, sit-ups and push-ups challenges, 50¬meter sprint, and standing long jump. There were no significant associations for physical work capacity at a heart rate of 170 (PWC170).
  • CONCLUSIONS: The results are concordant with the hypothesis that physical activity enhances academic performance, but the cross-¬sectional nature of the observations limits causal inference, and the disparity for PWC170 gives reason to question whether the associations were due to measurement bias or residual confounding.
  • CITATION: Dwyer, T., Sallis, J. F., Blizzard, L., Lazarus, R., & Dean, K. (2001). Relation of academic performance to physical activity and fitness in children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 13, 225–237.

Impact of recess on classroom behavior: Group effects and individual differences

  • PURPOSE: The purpose of this research was to determine the effect of a recess break on classroom behavior, specifically working, fidgeting, and listlessness.
  • METHODS: A southern urban school district with a policy against recess granted permission for 2 Grade 4 classes to have recess once a week so that subsequent behavior on recess and nonrecess days could be compared. A multivariate analysis of variance with repeated measures and subsequent analyses of variance indicated that the 43 children, who were used as their own controls, differed on recess and nonrecess days, becoming more on task and less fidgety when they had recess.
  • RESULTS: Sixty percent of the children, including all 5 of those with attention deficit disorder, and a balance of boys and girls benefited considerably. They worked more or fidgeted less (or both) on recess days.
  • CITATION: Jarrett, O. S., Maxwell, D. M., Dickerson, C., Hoge, P., Davies, G., & Yetley, A. (1998). Impact of recess on classroom behavior: Group effects and individual differences. The Journal of Educational Research, 92(2), 121–126. doi:10.1080/00220679809597584