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Prev Med. 2011 Jun;52 Suppl 1:S10-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.01.027. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

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

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  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Highway, NE MS: K-33, Atlanta, GA 30341, USA.



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).


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.


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.


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.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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