Physical Education and Academic Achievement in Elementary School: Data From the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, Mailstop K-46, Atlanta, GA 30345, USA.
American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.55). 05/2008; 98(4):721-7. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.117176
Source: PubMed


We examined the association between time spent in physical education and academic achievement in a longitudinal study of students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
We used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998 to 1999, which employed a multistage probability design to select a nationally representative sample of students in kindergarten (analytic sample = 5316). Time spent in physical education (minutes per week) was collected from classroom teachers, and academic achievement (mathematics and reading) was scored on an item response theory scale.
A small but significant benefit for academic achievement in mathematics and reading was observed for girls enrolled in higher amounts (70-300 minutes per week) of physical education (referent: 0-35 minutes per week). Higher amounts of physical education were not positively or negatively associated with academic achievement among boys.
Among girls, higher amounts of physical education may be associated with an academic benefit. Physical education did not appear to negatively affect academic achievement in elementary school students. Concerns about adverse effects on achievement may not be legitimate reasons to limit physical education programs.

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    • "The studies of Carlson et al. (2008), Dexter (1999) and Tremarche et al. (2007) examined relations between physical education and academic achievement and found positive outcomes. The study run by Heitzler (2006) with a substantial and representative sample, showed the children's beliefs on the benefits of participating in physical activity and the importance of parents' support. "
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    • "In another study, an aerobic dance intervention with high school girls resulted in a significantly greater decrease in body weight, whereas body weight in the control group remained unchanged (Viskic-Stalec et al. 2007). Due to concerns regarding loss of academic time as a result of greater involvement in PE classes and activities, numerous studies have investigated the positive effects of physical activity involvement on academic achievement and classroom behavior (Carlson et al. 2008; Coe et al. 2006; Nicholson et al. 2011; Sallis et al. 1999). Research with adults and animals has suggested that exercise results in an increase in oxygen levels to areas of the brain that support memory and learning (Hillman, Erickson, and Kramer 2008). "
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    • "The benefits to psychological well-being and achievement levels at school are becoming increasingly well-evidenced (Carlson et al., 2008; Fedewa & Ahn, 2011; Taras, 2005; Telford et al., 2012; Trudeau & Shepherd, 2008), and the preventative role of PA in managing behavioural issues is also gaining prominence (Sandford, Armour, & Warmington, 2006). At the very least, school psychologists should support teachers, principals and policy-makers in making the informed decision to enhance PA during both classroom and PE time and to combat the drops in quality instruction, time spent being physically active, promotion of PA, and enjoyment of PE that have been observed in this study. "
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