Physical Activity During School Improves Academic Achievement, Especially For Boys Interview with:
Eero Haapala, MSc in Exercise Medicine, BASc PhD student
University of Eastern Finland,School of Medicine
Institute of Biomedicine, Physiology
Kuopio, Finland

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: Our study is one of the first studies to investigate the different types of physical activity and sedentary behavior with academic achievement in children. Our main finding was that children who were more physically active during school recess were better readers in Grades 1-3 than less active children. We also found a direct relationship between physically active school transportation, which was mainly walking and cycling, and reading skills in boys. These findings suggest that particularly physical activity within a school day benefits academic achievement and that physical activity benefit academic achievement more in boys than in girls 6-8 years of age.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Yes, there were remarkable gender-differences in the associations of physical activity and academic achievement. Whereas boys with more phyiscal activity had a better academic achievement, we found inverse associations of physical activity with reading and arithmetic skills in girls. Nevertheless, these unexpected findings were partly explained by body adiposity. We also found that parental education modified these association in girls. Among girls of highly educated parents, physical activity was directly related to academic achievement whereas among girls of less educated parents girls with higher levels of physical activity had a poorer academic achievement than less active girls. Thus, we concluded that physical activity by itself would not decrease academic achievement in girls.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Clinicians and patients should acknowledge the importance of physical activity on children´s overall development, including academic development. Furthermore, both clinicians and patients should be aware of academic benefits of physically active trasnportation as well as including physically active breaks within a school day.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Further research is warranted regarding the factors moderating and mediating the associations between physical activity and academic achievement. More studies using observational longitudinal and intervention designs are also needed to reveal possible causal relationships and mechanisms.


Associations of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior with Academic Skills – A Follow-Up Study among Primary School Children
Link to the article:


Last Updated on September 11, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD