Table 1

Baseline corpus of articles addressing doing physical activity and academic performance in children

Authors and year DesignSample (E-C)Age 
Intervention  Length  Variables InstrumentConclusions 
Ardoy et al. (2014)Randomised controlled intervention 67 (26-41)13.64 (12-14)4 PE sessions (55 min) per week and 4 sessions (55 min) at higher intensity4 months Cognitive performance 
Academic performance 

Term grades
The schoolchildren who did 4 sessions of PA at higher intensity improved academic performance, although cognitive performance was not improved. 
Beck et al. (2016) Cluster-randomised intervention 165 
Motor-enriched mathematical teaching (60 min 3 times a week) 6 weeks Mathematical performance 
Cognitive performance
Ad hoc test (30 items) 

Greater improvements in subjects with lower maths performance and who perform gross motor tasks. Maintained for up to 8 weeks.
Bugge et al. (2018) Cluster-randomised intervention1181 
Triple Physical Education time (from 90 min to 270 min per week) 6 years Academic performance Danish system national test  The schoolchildren were not affected by the intervention, although health parameters such as cardio-respiratory fitness did improve. 
Bunketorp et al. (2015) Quasi-experimental design with control group 349 
2 weekly extracurricular PA sessions lasting 30-45 min 4 yearsAcademic performance 
Emotion and behaviour 
National results 

Academic performance increased, student behaviour improved and the level of wellbeing increased, especially in girls. 
Chen et al. (2017) Single-blind randomised control trial 66 
Multi-component exercise 3 days a week for 50 min at moderate intensity 12 weeksMeta-cognitive tasks TOLMeta-cognitive capacity was improved in obese adolescents, entailing the capacity to plan and process spatial information. 
Donnelly et al. (2017) Cluster-randomised intervention 584 
Inclusion of 10 minutes of PA per morning and afternoon lesson (100 min/week) 3 yearsAcademic performanceWIAT-III The A+PAAC programme neither improved nor reduced academic performance, although it did generate physical and mental health benefits. 
Duncan & Johnson (2014) Cross-longitudinal study 18 
Fill in WRAT 4 after 20 min at 50% and 75% of HRR on a cycling ergometer 20 min Academic performanceWRAT 4 Moderate intensity exercise on a cycling ergometer improved reading but not arithmetic. The improvements were not associated with greater intensity. 
Fedewa et al. (2015) Randomised controlled intervention 460 
Inclusion of 20 min of PA per day (5 times a week) by means of movement card games 8 monthsFluid intelligence
Academic performance

National results 
The intervention did not improve fluid intelligence. There were improvements in performance in mathematics but not in reading. 
Gao et al. (2016) One group pre- and post-test repeated measures95 
50 min. weekly school PA + 20 min. daily break based on active videogames6 weeksAcademic effort 

On-task behaviour 
Validated scale 

Direct observation
The intervention programme based on active videogames at school slightly improved academic effort and behaviour. 
Howie et al. (2015) Cross-longitudinal study 96 
5, 10 and 20 min. of moderate intensity classroom PA breaks 5/10/20 min Executive functions 
Academic performance 

Digit Recall 

Maths test 
5 minutes of PA did not generate cognitive improvements, although 10 and 20 minutes did improve maths performance. The programme did not negatively affect executive functions. 
Krafft et al. (2014) Randomised controlled intervention43 
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 40 minutes per day (5 days a week) 8 monthsCognition (planning, attention, etc.)CAS Physical exercise improved circulation in the anterior cortex in overweight children (decreased supply and greater efficiency) and greater cognitive activation. 
Lind et al. (2018) Randomised controlled intervention 931 
Two 45-minute exercise sessions per week with the FIFA 11 programme (2 football sessions) 11 weeks 
Cognitive performance CBB The FIFA 11 programme based on high-intensity football games had positive effects on cognitive performance (attention, alertness and working memory). 
Ma et al. (2014) Cross-longitudinal study 44 
5 days with “FUNterval” activities (4 min. high intensity PA breaks) 3 weeksBehaviour observed in the classroomBOSST The FUNtervals programme reduced the time spent off-task (motor, passive, and verbal behaviour). 
Mullender- Wijnsma et al. (2015) Randomised controlled intervention 81 
Language and maths activity with 10-15 min. physical exercise 3 times a week 22 weeksTime spent on tasks Time spent on tasks Active language and mathematics activities improved time-on-task in both groups, albeit lower in socially disadvantaged children. 
Mullender- Wijnsma et al. (2016) Randomised controlled intervention 499 
Active maths and language classes from 20 to 30 min. 3 times a week 44 weeks over 2 yearsAcademic performance in language and mathematics Global reading and maths ability tests Doing PA in mathematics and language improved performance in these fields due to the level of motivation and the inherent benefits of PA in cognition. 
Phillips et al. (2015) Pre-experimental intervention72 
Vigorous aerobic PA circuit with 9 activities and a total duration of 20 min 20 min Maths performanceNYSTP The mean score in mathematical performance was increased in the group that performed vigorous PA after 30 min. (not at 45 min). 
Quinto i Klausen (2016) Randomised controlled intervention925 
HIT training for 20 min. 2 times a week 2 yearsAcademic performanceAnnual grade score The effect of the intervention was not significant in most fields related to academic performance, and in some cases was even negative. 
Resaland et al. (2016) Cluster-randomised controlled intervention57 
90 min. a wk. of school PA + active breaks per lesson + 10 min. of home PA 
Academic performance in English, language and mathematics NDET No statistical differences in academic performance are shown, although the arithmetic score improved in those with poorest performance at baseline. 
Riley et al. (2016) Randomised controlled intervention240 
Mild-moderate PA performance in maths lessons (3 x 60 min) 6 weeksAcademic performance in mathematicsField score + teacher scale PA levels increase without sacrificing academic performance, which improved through task resolution and observed behaviour. 
et al. (2018) 
Randomised controlled intervention190 
Mild intensity PA performance (walking) through Pokémon Go (40 min a day) 8 weeks
Cognitive performance 
Emotional intelligence 
Ad hoc basat RIAS 

Selective attention, concentration and the ability to socialise were improved by using this active videogame for 40 minutes a day. 
Schmidt et al. (2015) Randomised controlled intervention181 
PE sessions with team games or aerobic exercise according to experimental group 6 weeksExecutive functions 
E-Prime Software 
Flanker Task 
The inclusion of cognitive engagement in PA (team games vs. aerobic exercise) leads to greater improvements in cognitive performance.
Tarp et al. (2016) Cluster-randomised intervention632 
60 min. moderate school-based PA + 10 min home PA 5 times a week (both) 20 weeksCognitive control 

Academic performance
Eriksen Flanker Task 

Maths test
There is no PA effect on executive functions and maths performance. The level of PA did not vary, so no causal relationships were established. 
Van den Berg et al. (2016) Randomised controlled intervention184 
12-minute aerobic, coordination and strength training by experimental group 2 days (1 control day)Attention
Cognitive performance

12-minute aerobic, coordination or strength exercise sessions (mild-to-moderate intensity) have no effect on attention and academic performance. 
Note. Concepts. PA: Physical Activity; PE: Physical Education; NA: Not available; GC: Control group; GE: Experimental group. Instruments: BOSST: Behavioral Observation of Students in Schools Tool; CANTAB: Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery; CBB: Costage Brief Battery; NYSTP: New York State Testing Program; d2TA: d2 Test of Attention; LDST: Letter Digit Substitution Test; NDET: Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training; RIAS: Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales; IGF-M: Test de Inteligencia Factorial; TOL: Tower of London-Drexel task; TMT: Trail-Making Test; TEIQque-SF: Trait and Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire Short Form; SPM: Standard Progressive Matrices; SDQ: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; WIAT-III: Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-Third Edition; WRAT 4: Wide Range Achievement Test.