4

Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance

Key Messages

•  Evidence suggests that increasing physical activity and physical fitness may improve academic performance and that time in the school day dedicated to recess, physical education class, and physical activity in the classroom may also facilitate academic performance.

•  Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These topics depend on efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness.

•  Executive function and brain health underlie academic performance. Basic cognitive functions related to attention and memory facilitate learning, and these functions are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.

•  Single sessions of and long-term participation in physical activity improve cognitive performance and brain health. Children who participate in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity benefit the most.



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4 Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance Key Messages • Evidence suggests that increasing physical activity and physical fitness may improve academic performance and that time in the school day dedicated to recess, physical education class, and physical a ­ ctivity in the classroom may also facilitate academic performance. • Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These topics depend on efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness. • Executive function and brain health underlie academic performance. Basic cognitive functions related to attention and memory facilitate learning, and these functions are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness. • Single sessions of and long-term participation in physical activity improve cognitive performance and brain health. Children who par- ticipate in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity benefit the most. 161

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162 Educating the Student Body • Given the importance of time on task to learning, students should be provided with frequent physical activity breaks that are developmen- tally appropriate. • Although presently understudied, physically active lessons offered in the classroom may increase time on task and attention to task in the classroom setting. A lthough academic performance stems from a complex interaction between intellect and contextual variables, health is a vital moderat- ing factor in a child’s ability to learn. The idea that healthy children learn b ­ etter is empirically supported and well accepted (Basch, 2010), and mul- tiple ­ tudies have confirmed that health benefits are associated with physi- s cal activity, including cardiovascular and muscular fitness, bone health, psycho­ ocial outcomes, and cognitive and brain health (Strong et al., 2005; s see Chapter 3). The relationship of physical activity and physical fitness to cognitive and brain health and to academic performance is the subject of this chapter. Given that the brain is responsible for both mental processes and physi- cal actions of the human body, brain health is important across the life span. In adults, brain health, representing absence of disease and optimal structure and function, is measured in terms of quality of life and effective function- ing in activities of daily living. In children, brain health can be measured in terms of successful development of attention, on-task behavior, memory, and academic performance in an educational setting. This chapter reviews the findings of recent research regarding the contribution of engagement in physical activity and the attainment of a health-enhancing level of physi- cal fitness to cognitive and brain health in children. Correlational research examining the relationship among academic performance, physical fitness, and physical activity also is described. Because research in older adults has served as a model for understanding the effects of physical activity and fit- ness on the developing brain during childhood, the adult research is briefly discussed. The short- and long-term cognitive benefits of both a single ses- sion of and regular participation in physical activity are summarized. Before outlining the health benefits of physical activity and fitness, it is important to note that many factors influence academic performance. Among these are socioeconomic status (Sirin, 2005), parental involvement

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Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance 163 (Fan and Chen, 2001), and a host of other demographic factors. A valu- able predictor of student academic performance is a parent having clear expectations for the child’s academic success. Attendance is another factor confirmed as having a significant impact on academic performance (Stanca, 2006; Baxter et al., 2011). Because children must be present to learn the desired content, attendance should be measured in considering factors related to academic performance. Physical Fitness and Physical Activity: Relation to Academic Performance State-mandated academic achievement testing has had the unintended consequence of reducing opportunities for children to be physically active during the school day and beyond. In addition to a general shifting of time in school away from physical education to allow for more time on academic subjects, some children are withheld from physical education classes or recess to participate in remedial or enriched learning experiences designed to increase academic performance (Pellegrini and Bohn, 2005; see Chapter 5). Yet little evidence supports the notion that more time allocated to subject matter will translate into better test scores. Indeed, 11 of 14 cor- relational studies of physical activity during the school day demonstrate a positive relationship to academic performance (Rasberry et al., 2011). Overall, a rapidly growing body of work suggests that time spent engaged in physical activity is related not only to a healthier body but also to a healthier mind (Hillman et al., 2008). Children respond faster and with greater accuracy to a variety of cogni- tive tasks after participating in a session of physical activity (Tomporowski, 2003; Budde et al., 2008; Hillman et al., 2009; Pesce et al., 2009; Ellemberg and St-Louis-Deschênes, 2010). A single bout of moderate-intensity physi- cal activity has been found to increase neural and behavioral concomitants associated with the allocation of attention to a specific cognitive task (Hillman et al., 2009; Pontifex et al., 2012). And when children who par- ticipated in 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity were compared with children who watched television for the same amount of time, the former children cognitively outperformed the latter (Ellemberg and St-Louis- Desêhenes, 2010). Visual task switching data among 69 overweight and inactive children did not show differences between cognitive performance after treadmill walking and sitting (Tomporowski et al., 2008b). When physical activity is used as a break from academic learning time, postengagement effects include better attention (Grieco et al., 2009; Bartholomew and Jowers, 2011), increased on-task behaviors (Mahar et al., 2006), and improved academic performance (Donnelly and Lambourne, 2011). Comparisons between 1st-grade students housed in a classroom

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164 Educating the Student Body with stand-sit desks where the child could stand at his/her discretion and in classrooms containing traditional furniture showed that the former children were highly likely to stand, thus expending significantly more energy than those who were seated (Benden et al., 2011). More important, teachers can offer physical activity breaks as part of a supplemental curriculum or sim- ply as a way to reset student attention during a lesson (Kibbe et al., 2011; see Chapter 6) and when provided with minimal training can efficaciously produce vigorous or moderate energy expenditure in students (Stewart et al., 2004). Further, after-school physical activity programs have demonstrated the ability to improve cardiovascular endurance, and this increase in aerobic fitness has been shown to mediate improvements in academic performance (Fredericks et al., 2006), as well as the allocation of neural resources under- lying performance on a working memory task (Kamijo et al., 2011). Over the past three decades, several reviews and meta-analyses have described the relationship among physical fitness, physical activity, and cognition (broadly defined as all mental processes). The majority of these reviews have focused on the relationship between academic performance and physical fitness—a physiological trait commonly defined in terms of cardiorespiratory capacity (e.g., maximal oxygen consumption; see Chapter 3). More recently, reviews have attempted to describe the effects of an acute or single bout of physical activity, as a behavior, on academic performance. These reviews have focused on brain health in older adults (Colcombe and Kramer, 2003), as well as the effects of acute physical activity on cognition in adults (Tomporowski, 2003). Some have con- sidered age as part of the analysis (Etnier et al., 1997, 2006). Reviews focusing on research conducted in children (Sibley and Etnier, 2003) have examined the relationship among physical activity, participation in sports, and academic performance (Trudeau and Shephard, 2008, 2010; Singh et al., 2012); physical activity and mental and cognitive health (Biddle and Asare, 2011); and physical activity, nutrition, and academic performance (Burkhalter and Hillman, 2011). The findings of most of these reviews align with the conclusions presented in a meta-analytic review conducted by Fedewa and Ahn (2011). The studies reviewed by Fedewa and Ahn include experimental/quasi-experimental as well as cross-sectional and cor- ­ relational designs, with the experimental designs yielding the highest effect sizes. The strongest relationships were found between aerobic fitness and ­ achievement in mathematics, followed by IQ and reading performance. The range of cognitive performance measures, participant characteristics, and types of research design all mediated the relationship among physical activity, fitness, and academic performance. With regard to physical activity interventions, which were carried out both within and beyond the school day, those involving small groups of peers (around 10 youth of a similar age) were associated with the greatest gains in academic performance.

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Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance 165 The number of peer-reviewed publications on this topic is growing exponentially. Further evidence of the growth of this line of inquiry is its increased global presence. Positive relationships among physical activ- ity, physical fitness, and academic performance have been found among students from the Netherlands (Singh et al., 2012) and Taiwan (Chih and Chen, 2011). Broadly speaking, however, many of these studies show small to moderate effects and suffer from poor research designs (Biddle and Asare, 2011; Singh et al., 2012). Basch (2010) conducted a comprehensive review of how children’s health and health disparities influence academic performance and learning. The author’s report draws on empirical evidence suggesting that education reform will be ineffective unless children’s health is made a priority. Basch concludes that schools may be the only place where health inequities can be addressed and that, if children’s basic health needs are not met, they will struggle to learn regardless of the effectiveness of the instructional materials used. More recently, Efrat (2011) conducted a review of physical activity, fitness, and academic performance to examine the achievement gap. He discovered that only seven studies had included socioeconomic status as a variable, despite its known relationship to education (Sirin, 2005). Physical Fitness as a Learning Outcome of Physical Education and Its Relation to Academic Performance Achieving and maintaining a healthy level of aerobic fitness, as defined using criterion-referenced standards from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES; Welk et al., 2011), is a desired learning outcome of physical education programming. Regular participa- tion in physical activity also is a national learning standard for physical education, a standard intended to facilitate the establishment of habitual and meaningful engagement in physical activity (NASPE, 2004). Yet although physical fitness and participation in physical activity are estab- lished as learning outcomes in all 50 states, there is little evidence to suggest that children actually achieve and maintain these standards (see Chapter 2). Statewide and national datasets containing data on youth physical fit- ness and academic performance have increased access to student-level data on this subject (Grissom, 2005; Cottrell et al., 2007; Carlson et al., 2008; Chomitz et al., 2008; Wittberg et al., 2010; Van Dusen et al., 2011). Early research in South Australia focused on quantifying the benefits of physical activity and physical education during the school day; the benefits noted included increased physical fitness, decreased body fat, and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease (Dwyer et al., 1979, 1983). Even today, Dwyer and colleagues are among the few scholars who regularly include in their research measures of physical activity intensity in the school environment,

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166 Educating the Student Body which is believed to be a key reason why they are able to report differenti- ated effects of different intensities. A longitudinal study in Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada, tracked how the academic performance of children from grades 1 through 6 was related to student health, motor skills, and time spent in physical education. The researchers concluded that additional time dedicated to physical education did not inhibit academic performance (Shephard et al., 1984; Shephard, 1986; Trudeau and Shephard, 2008). Longitudinal follow-up investigating the long-term benefits of enhanced physical education experiences is encouraging but largely inconclusive. In a study examining the effects of daily physical education during elementary school on physical activity during adulthood, 720 men and women com- pleted the Québec Health Survey (Trudeau et al., 1999). Findings suggest that physical education was associated with physical activity in later life for females but not males (Trudeau et al., 1999); most of the associations were significant but weak (Trudeau et al., 2004). Adult body mass index (BMI) at age 34 was related to childhood BMI at ages 10-12 in females but not males (Trudeau et al., 2001). Longitudinal studies such as those conducted in Sweden and Finland also suggest that physical education experiences may be related to adult engagement in physical activity (Glenmark, 1994; Telama et al., 1997). From an academic performance perspective, longitudi- nal data on men who enlisted for military service imply that cardio­ ascular v fitness at age 18 predicted cognitive performance in later life (Aberg et al., 2009), thereby supporting the idea of offering physical education and phys- ical activity opportunities well into emerging adulthood through secondary and postsecondary education. Castelli and colleagues (2007) investigated younger children (in 3rd and 5th grades) and the differential contributions of the various subcomponents of the Fitnessgram®. Specifically, they examined the individual contribu- tions of aerobic capacity, muscle strength, muscle flexibility, and body composition to performance in mathematics and reading on the Illinois Standardized Achievement Test among a sample of 259 children. Their find- ings corroborate those of the California Department of Education (Grissom, 2005), indicating a general relationship between fitness and achievement test performance. When the individual components of the Fitnessgram were decomposed, the researchers determined that only aerobic capacity was related to test performance. Muscle strength and flexibility showed no relationship, while an inverse association of BMI with test performance was observed, such that higher BMI was associated with lower test performance. Although Baxter and colleagues (2011) confirmed the importance of attend- ing school in relation to academic performance through the use of 4th-grade student recall, correlations with BMI were not significant. State-mandated implementation of the coordinated school health model requires all schools in Texas to conduct annual fitness testing

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Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance 167 using the Fitnessgram among students in grades 3-12. In a special issue of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport (2010), multiple articles describe the current state of physical fitness among children in Texas; confirm the associations among school performance levels, academic achievement, and p ­ hysical fitness (Welk et al., 2010; Zhu et al., 2010); and demonstrate the ability of qualified physical education teachers to administer physical fit- ness tests (Zhu et al., 2010). Also using data from Texas schools, Van Dusen and colleagues (2011) found that cardiovascular fitness had the strongest association with academic performance, particularly in mathematics over reading. Unlike previous research, which demonstrated a steady decline in fitness by developmental stage (Duncan et al., 2007), this study found that cardiovascular fitness did decrease but not significantly (Van Dusen et al., 2011). Aerobic fitness, then, may be important to academic performance, as there may be a dose-response relationship (Van Dusen et al., 2011). Using a large sample of students in grades 4-8, Chomitz and col- leagues (2008) found that the likelihood of passing both mathematics and English achievement tests increased with the number of fitness tests passed during physical education class, and the odds of passing the mathematics achievement tests were inversely related to higher body weight. Similar to the findings of Castelli and colleagues (2007), socioeconomic status and demographic factors explained little of the relationship between aerobic fit- ness and academic performance; however, socioeconomic status may be an explanatory variable for students of low fitness (London and Castrechini, 2011). In sum, numerous cross-sectional and correlational studies demonstrate small-to-moderate positive or null associations between physical fitness (Grissom, 2005; Cottrell et al., 2007; Edwards et al., 2009; Eveland-Sayers et al., 2009; Cooper et al., 2010; Welk et al., 2010; Wittberg et al., 2010; Zhu et al., 2010; Van Dusen et al., 2011), particularly aerobic fitness, and academic performance (Castelli et al, 2007; Chomitz et al., 2008; Roberts et al., 2010; Welk et al., 2010; Chih and Chen, 2011; London and Castrechini, 2011; Van Dusen et al., 2011). Moreover, the findings may support a dose-response association, suggesting that the more components of physical fitness (e.g., cardiovascular endurance, strength, muscle endur- ance) considered acceptable for the specific age and gender that are pres- ent, the greater the likelihood of successful academic performance. From a public health and policy standpoint, the conclusions these findings support are limited by few causal inferences, a lack of data confirmation, and inad- equate reliability because the data were often collected by non­esearchers r or through self-report methods. It may also be noted that this research includes no known longitudinal studies and few randomized controlled trials (examples are included later in this chapter in the discussion of the developing brain).

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168 Educating the Student Body Physical Activity, Physical Education, and Academic Performance In contrast with the correlational data presented above for physical fitness, more information is needed on the direct effects of participation in physical activity programming and physical education classes on academic performance. In a meta-analysis, Sibley and Etnier (2003) found a positive rela- tionship between physical activity and cognition in school-age youth (aged 4-18), suggesting that physical activity, as well as physical fitness, may be related to cognitive outcomes during development. Participation in physical activity was related to cognitive performance in eight mea- surement categories (perceptual skills, IQ, achievement, verbal tests, ­ mathematics tests, memory, developmental level/academic readiness, and “other”), with results indicating a beneficial relationship of physical activ- ity to all cognitive outcomes except memory (Sibley and Etnier, 2003). Since that meta-­ nalysis, however, several papers have reported robust a relationships between aerobic fitness and different aspects of memory in children (e.g., Chaddock et al., 2010a, 2011; Kamijo et al., 2011; Monti et al., 2012). Regardless, the comprehensive review of Sibley and Etnier (2003) was important because it helped bring attention to an emerging literature suggesting that physical activity may benefit cognitive develop- ment even as it also demonstrated the need for further study to better understand the multifaceted relationship between physical activity and cognitive and brain health. The regular engagement in physical activity achieved during physical education programming can also be related to academic performance, espe- cially when the class is taught by a physical education teacher. The Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) study examined the effects of a 2-year health-related physical education program on academic per- formance in children (Sallis et al., 1999). In an experimental design, seven elementary schools were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) a specialist condition in which certified physical education teachers delivered the SPARK curriculum, (2) a trained-teacher condition in which classroom teachers implemented the curriculum, and (3) a control condition in which classroom teachers implemented the local physical education curriculum. No significant differences by condition were found for mathematics testing; however, reading scores were significantly higher in the specialist condition relative to the control condition (Sallis et al., 1999), while language scores were significantly lower in the specialist condition than in the other two conditions. The authors conclude that spending time in physical education with a specialist did not have a negative effect on academic performance. Shortcomings of this research include the amount of data loss from pre- to posttest, the use of results of 2nd-grade testing that exceeded the national

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Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance 169 average in performance as baseline data, and the use of norm-referenced rather than criterion-based testing. In seminal research conducted by Gabbard and Barton (1979), six dif- ferent conditions of physical activity (no activity; 20, 30, 40, and 50 min- utes; and posttest no activity) were completed by 106 2nd graders during physical education. Each physical activity session was followed by 5 min- utes of rest and the completion of 36 math problems. The authors found a potential threshold effect whereby only the 50-minute condition improved mathematical performance, with no differences by gender. A longitudinal study of the kindergarten class of 1998-1999, using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, investigated the associa- tion between enrollment in physical education and academic achievement (Carlson et al., 2008). Higher amounts of physical education were corre- lated with better academic performance in mathematics among females, but this finding did not hold true for males. Ahamed and colleagues (2007) found in a cluster randomized trial that, after 16 months of a classroom-based physical activity intervention, there was no significant difference between the treatment and control groups in performance on the standardized Cognitive Abilities Test, Third Edition (CAT-3). Others have found, however, that coordinative exercise (Budde et al., 2008) or bouts of vigorous physical activity during free time (Coe et al., 2006) contribute to higher levels of academic performance. Specifically, Coe and colleagues examined the association of enrollment in physical edu- cation and self-reported vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity outside school with performance in core academic courses and on the Terra Nova Standardized Achievement Test among more than 200 6th-grade students. Their findings indicate that academic performance was unaffected by enrollment in physical education classes, which were found to average only 19 minutes of vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity. When time spent engaged in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity outside of school was considered, however, a significant positive relation to academic performance emerged, with more time engaged in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity being related to better grades but not test scores (Coe et al., 2006). Studies of participation in sports and academic achievement have found positive associations (Mechanic and Hansell, 1987; Dexter, 1999; Crosnoe, 2002; Eitle and Eitle, 2002; Stephens and Schaben, 2002; Eitle, 2005; Miller et al., 2005; Fox et al., 2010; Ruiz et al., 2010); higher grade point averages (GPAs) in season than out of season (Silliker and Quirk, 1997); a negative association between cheerleading and science performance (Hanson and Kraus, 1998); and weak and negative associations between the amount of time spent participating in sports and performance in English-language class among 13-, 14-, and 16-year-old students (Daley and Ryan, 2000).

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170 Educating the Student Body Other studies, however, have found no association between participation in sports and academic performance (Fisher et al., 1996). The findings of these studies need to be interpreted with caution as many of their designs failed to account for the level of participation by individuals in the sport (e.g., amount of playing time, type and intensity of physical activity engagement by sport). Further, it is unclear whether policies required students to have higher GPAs to be eligible for participation. Offering sports opportunities is well justified regardless of the cognitive benefits, however, given that adolescents may be less likely to engage in risky behaviors when involved in sports or other extracurricular activities (Page et al., 1998; Elder et al., 2000; Taliaferro et al., 2010), that participation in sports increases physi- cal fitness, and that affiliation with sports enhances school connectedness. Although a consensus on the relationship of physical activity to aca- demic achievement has not been reached, the vast majority of available evidence suggests the relationship is either positive or neutral. The meta-­ analytic review by Fedewa and Ahn (2011) suggests that interventions entailing aerobic physical activity have the greatest impact on academic performance; however, all types of physical activity, except those involving flexibility alone, contribute to enhanced academic performance, as do inter- ventions that use small groups (about 10 students) rather than individuals or large groups. Regardless of the strength of the findings, the literature indicates that time spent engaged in physical activity is beneficial to chil- dren because it has not been found to detract from academic performance, and in fact can improve overall health and function (Sallis et al., 1999; Hillman et al., 2008; Tomporowski et al., 2008a; Trudeau and Shephard, 2008; Rasberry et al., 2011). Single Bouts of Physical Activity Beyond formal physical education, evidence suggests that multi­ component approaches are a viable means of providing physical activ- ity opportunities for children across the school curriculum (see also Chapter 6). Although health-related fitness lessons taught by certified physical education teachers result in greater student fitness gains relative to such lessons taught by other teachers (Sallis et al., 1999), non-physical education teachers are capable of providing opportunities to be physically ­ active within the classroom (Kibbe et al., 2011). Single sessions or bouts of physical activity have independent merit, offering immediate benefits that can enhance the learning experience. Studies have found that single bouts of physical activity result in improved attention (Hillman et al., 2003, 2009; Pontifex et al., 2012), better working memory (Pontifex et al., 2009), and increased academic learning time and reduced off-task ­ehaviorsb (Mahar et al., 2006; Bartholomew and Jowers, 2011). Yet single bouts

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Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance 171 of physical activity have differential effects, as very vigorous exercise has been associated with cognitive fatigue and even cognitive decline in adults (Tomporowski, 2003). As seen in Figure 4-1, high levels of effort, arousal, or activation can influence perception, decision making, response prepara- tion, and actual response. For discussion of the underlying constructs and differential effects of single bouts of physical activity on cognitive perfor- mance, see Tomporowski (2003). For children, classrooms are busy places where they must distinguish relevant information from distractions that emerge from many different sources occurring simultaneously. A student must listen to the teacher, adhere to classroom procedures, focus on a specific task, hold and retain information, and make connections between novel information and previ- ous experiences. Hillman and colleagues (2009) demonstrated that a single bout of moderate-intensity walking (60 percent of maximum heart rate) resulted in significant improvements in performance on a task requiring attentional inhibition (e.g., the ability to focus on a single task). These find- ings were accompanied by changes in neuroelectric measures underlying the allocation of attention (see Figure 4-2) and significant improvements on the reading subtest of the Wide Range Achievement Test. No such effects were observed following a similar duration of quiet rest. These findings were later replicated and extended to demonstrate benefits for both mathematics and reading performance in healthy children and those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Pontifex et al., 2013). Further replications of these findings demonstrated that a single bout of moderate-intensity exercise using a treadmill improved performance on a task of attention and inhibition, but similar benefits were not derived from moderate-intensity Executive Effort Arousal Activation Decision Response Stimulus Perception Making Preparation Response FIGURE 4-1  Information processing: Diagram of a simplified version of Sanders’s (1983) cognitive-energetic model of human information processing (adapted from Jones and Hardy, 1989). Figure 4-1.eps SOURCE: Tomporowski, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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186 Educating the Student Body studies, the next step will be to increase the amount of causal evidence available on school-age children. Accomplishing this will require further consideration of demographic factors that may moderate the physical activity–cognition relationship. For instance, socioeconomic status has a unique relationship with physi- cal activity (Estabrooks et al., 2003) and cognitive control (Mezzacappa, 2004). Although many studies have attempted to control for socioeconomic status (see Hillman et al., 2009; Kamijo et al., 2011, 2012a,b,c; Pontifex et al., 2011), further inquiry into its relationship with physical activity, adiposity, and cognition is warranted to determine whether it may serve as a potential mediator or moderator for the observed relationships. A second demographic factor that warrants further consideration is gender. Most authors have failed to describe gender differences when reporting on the physical activity–cognition literature. However, studies of adiposity and cognition have suggested that such a relationship may exist (see Datar and Sturm, 2006). Additionally, further consideration of age is warranted. Most studies have examined a relatively narrow age range, consisting of a few years. Such an approach often is necessary because of maturation and the need to develop comprehensive assessment tools that suit the various stages of development. However, this approach has yielded little under- standing of how the physical activity–cognition relationship may change throughout the course of maturation. Finally, although a number of studies have described the relationship of physical activity, fitness, and adiposity to standardized measures of academic performance, few attempts have been made to observe the rela- tionship within the context of the educational environment. Standardized tests, although necessary to gauge knowledge, may not be the most sensitive measures for (the process of) learning. Future research will need to do a better job of translating promising laboratory findings to the real world to determine the value of this relationship in ecologically valid settings. Summary From an authentic and practical to a mechanistic perspective, physically active and aerobically fit children consistently outperform their inactive and ­ unfit peers academically on both a short- and a long-term basis. Time spent engaged in physical activity is related not only to a healthier body but also to enriched cognitive development and lifelong brain health. Collectively, the findings across the body of literature in this area suggest that increases in aerobic fitness, derived from physical activity, are related to improve- ments in the integrity of brain structure and function that underlie academic performance. The strongest relationships have been found between aerobic fitness and performance in mathematics, reading, and English. For children

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Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance 187 in a school setting, regular participation in physical activity is particularly beneficial with respect to tasks that require working memory and problem solving. These findings are corroborated by the results of both authen- tic correlational studies and experimental randomized controlled trials. Overall, the benefits of additional time dedicated to physical education and other physical activity opportunities before, during, and after school outweigh the benefits of exclusive utilization of school time for academic learning, as physical activity opportunities offered across the curriculum do not inhibit academic performance. Both habitual and single bouts of physical activity contribute to enhanced academic performance. Findings indicate a robust relationship of acute exercise to increased attention, with evidence emerging for a relation- ship between participation in physical activity and disciplinary behaviors, time on task, and academic performance. Specifically, higher-fit children allocate greater resources to a given task and demonstrate less reliance on environmental cues or teacher prompting. References Åberg, M. A., N. L. Pedersen, K. Torén, M. Svartengren, B. Bäckstrand, T. Johnsson, C. M. Cooper-Kuhn, N. D. Åberg, M. Nilsson, and H. G. Kuhn. 2009. Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106(49):20906-20911. Aglioti, S. M., P. Cesari, M. Romani, and C. Urgesi. 2008. Action anticipation and motor resonance in elite basketball players. Nature Neuroscience 11(9):1109-1116. Ahamed, Y., H. Macdonald, K. Reed, P. J. Naylor, T. Liu-Ambrose, and H. McKay. 2007. School-based physical activity does not compromise children’s academic performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 39(2):371-376. Aron, A., R. Poldrack, and S. Wise. 2009. Cognition: Basal ganglia role. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience 2:1069-1077. Barros, R. M., E. J. Silver, and R. E. K. Stein. 2009. School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics 123(2):431-436. Bartholomew, J. B., and E. M. Jowers. 2011. Physically active academic lessons in elemen- tary children. Preventive Medicine 52(Suppl 1):S51-S54. Basch, C. 2010. Healthier children are better learners: A missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap. http://www.equitycampaign.org/i/a/document/12557_ EquityMattersVol6_Web03082010.pdf (accessed October 11, 2011). Baxter, S. D., J.A. Royer, J. W. Hardin, C. H. Guinn, and C. M. Devlin. 2011. The relationship of school absenteeism with body mass index, academic achievement, and socioeconomic status among fourth grade children. Journal of School Health 81(7):417-423. Benden, M. E., J. J. Blake, M. L. Wendel, and J. C. Huber, Jr. 2011. The impact of stand- biased desks in classrooms on calorie expenditure in children. American Journal of Public Health 101(8):1433-1436. Biddle, S. J., and M. Asare. 2011. Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents: A review of reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine 45(11):886-895.

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