Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Student Academic Performance Outcomes of a Classroom Physical Activity Intervention: A Pilot Study

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Student Academic Performance Outcomes of a Classroom Physical Activity Intervention: A Pilot Study

Article excerpt


A 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. 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.

Keywords: Curricular Intervention, Academic Achievement, Child Health, Curriculum-Based Measurement


Throughout the last three decades, children have become increasingly more sedentary given the changes in our modernized environment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2009; Stevens, To, Stevenson & Lochbaum, 2008). Schools have been identified as locations in which physical activity (PA) promotion should occur (Pate, Davis, Robinson, Stone, McKenzie & Young, 2006). No Child LeftBehind legislation has led to budget cuts and increased pressure for schools to increase standardized test scores, thereby leaving schools to reduce or even eliminate programs that could enhance PA in children (Chomitz, Slining, McGowan, Mitchell, Dawson & Hacker, 2009; Coe, Pivarnik, Womack, Reeves & Malina, 2006; Sibley & Etnier, 2003). During school hours, the decrease of PA through limited time spent in physical education class or recess breaks contributes to the significant increase of sedentary behaviors in children. Fewer children walk or ride their bicycles to school, and PA is increasingly being replaced with television watching, time spent on the Internet, and the ubiquitous playing of video games (CDC, 2009; Stevens et al., 2008; World Health Organization [WHO], 2009). Experts recommend that children engage in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous PA per day (Strong, Malina, Blimkie, Daniels, Dishman, Gutin...Trudeau, 2005), yet studies have found that only 42% of children ages 6-11 years obtain this goal (Troiano, Berrigan, Dodd, Masse, Tilert & McDowell, 2008).

When addressing health outcomes, typically the physical benefits are discussed; however, participating in physical activities has also shown a significant and positive effect on children's cognitive functioning (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011; Trudeau & Shephard, 2010) and academic outcomes, with no detrimental effects to learning when time is taken away from instruction (Sibley & Etnier, 2003). Researchers theorize that children receive cognitive benefits from participating in PA through a number of mediating processes (Basch, 2010; Trudeau & Shephard, 2010). In a review of the literature, Trudeau and Shephard (2010) identified physiological influences such as greater arousal and enhanced levels of neurotrophins that stimulate neural connections in the hippocampus or learning center of children's brains. Further, additional psychosocial influences were also found in the literature, including an increased level of self-esteem and connectedness in schools, likely enhancing children's ability to learn (Trudeau & Shephard, 2010). Research attempting to identify the mediating relationships between children's levels of PA and cognitive outcomes are limited by methodology employed in most of the studies (see Fedewa & Ahn, 2011), and thus the specific causal pathways between PA and children's cognitions have yet to be identified.

To date, most of the research examining the academic and cognitive effects of children's PA has been measured through traditional, standardized tests or grades. …

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