BACKGROUND: Physical activity is associated with many physical and mental health benefits, however many children do not meet the national physical activity guidelines. While schools provide an ideal setting to promote children's physical activity, adding physical activity to the school day can be difficult given time constraints often imposed by competing key learning areas. Classroom-based physical activity may provide an opportunity to increase school-based physical activity while concurrently improving academic-related outcomes. The primary aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the impact of classroom-based physical activity interventions on academic-related outcomes. A secondary aim was to evaluate the impact of these lessons on physical activity levels over the study duration.
METHODS: A systematic search of electronic databases (PubMed, ERIC, SPORTDiscus, PsycINFO) was performed in January 2016and updated in January 2017. Studies that investigated the association between classroom-based physical activity interventions and academic-related outcomes in primary (elementary) school-aged children were included. Meta-analyses were conducted in Review Manager, with effect sizes calculated separately for each outcome assessed.
RESULUTS: Thirty-nine articles met the inclusion criteria for the review, and 16 provided sufficient data and appropriate design for inclusion in the meta-analyses. Studies investigated a range of academic-related outcomes including classroom behaviour (e.g. on-task behaviour), cognitive functions (e.g. executive function), and academic achievement (e.g. standardised test scores). Results of the meta-analyses showed classroom-based physical activity had a positive effect on improving on-task and reducing off-task classroom behaviour (standardised mean difference=0.60 (95% CI: 0.20,1.00)), and led to improvements in academic achievement when a progress monitoring tool was used (standardised mean difference=1.03 (95% CI: 0.22,1.84)). However, no effect was found for cognitive functions (standardised mean difference=0.33 (95% CI: -0.11,0.77)) or physical activity (standardised mean difference=0.40 (95% CI: -1.15,0.95)).
CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest classroom-based physical activity may have a positive impact on academic-related outcomes. However, it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions due to the level of heterogeneity in intervention components and academic-related outcomes assessed. Future studies should consider the intervention period when selecting academic-related outcome measures, and use an objective measure of physical activity to determine intervention fidelity and effects on overall physical activity levels. Copyright © 2017 The Author(s).