Objective This report aimed to systematically review the evidence for a differential association between objective and self-reported physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness on academic achievement.
Design Systematic review.
Data sources Studies were identified from searches in Embase, Education Resources Information Center, PubMed, PsycINFO, SPORTdiscus and Web of Science databases from January 2000 to December 2016.
Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Eligibility criteria included cross-sectional, longitudinal and interventional study designs. Outcomes included students’ school grade or a standardised test or measure of academic achievement. Explanatory variables were cardiorespiratory fitness and objective and self-reported physical activity. Inclusion criteria included school-aged children and adolescents aged–18 years (or students from primary to secondary school when student’s participants age was not described) and articles published in English, Portuguese or Spanish.
Results A total of 51 articles met inclusion criteria: 41 cross-sectional, 2 intervention and 8 longitudinal studies. Results from 11 studies were inconsistent regarding the relationship between objectively measured physical activity and academic achievement. Ten of the 16 articles reported positive associations between self-reported physical activity and academic achievement. From the 22 studies that analysed the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and academic achievement, it was verified that they all generally support the beneficial effect of cardiorespiratory fitness on students’ academic achievement.
Conclusion Higher cardiorespiratory fitness may be important to enhance children and adolescents’ health and, additionally, academic achievement. Due to a lack of consensus across studies, methodological issues associated with the assessment of physical activity should be considered when investigating physical activity and academic achievement.
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Contributors AM, DAS and LBS conceived the study, and AM and DAS developed a systematic review protocol. AM and DAS conducted the literature search and selected the studies based on the title and the abstract and extracted and coded the data from all studies. Study outcomes were summarised by AM, DAS and LBS. They wrote the initial draft of the manuscript, and CHH made significant revisions and contributions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Funding DAS is supported by a scholarship from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (grant: SFRH/BPD/92462/2013).
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.