DOI: 10.1111/sms.14479 ISSN:

Acute effect of physical activity on academic outcomes in school‐aged youth: A systematic review and multivariate meta‐analysis

Adrià Muntaner‐Mas, Javier S. Morales, Óscar Martínez‐de‐Quel, David R. Lubans, Antonio García‐Hermoso
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine



There has been an increase in the number of studies examining the effect of acute and chronic physical activity on academic outcomes in children and adolescents in the last two decades. We aimed to systematically determine the acute effects of physical activity on academic outcomes in school‐aged youth and to examine possible moderators.


We conducted a systematic search using PubMed, Web of Science, SPORTDiscus, and PsycINFO databases (from inception to 11th January 2023) for studies assessing the acute effects of physical activity on academic performance‐related outcomes in school‐aged youth. A univariate and multivariate meta‐analysis was conducted based on a random‐effects model with restricted maximum likelihood used to pool the academic outcomes results (Hedge's g).


We included 11 articles (803 children and adolescents [range: 6–16 years]) in the systematic review. Overall, acute physical activity increased academic outcomes (Hedge's g = 0.35, 95% CI: 0.20–0.50). Multivariate meta‐analyses revealed that physical activity increased academic performance in mathematics (Hedge's g = 0.29, 95% CI: 0.16–0.42) and language (Hedge's g = 0.28, 95% CI: 0.09–0.47). Only behavior change techniques (Hedge's g = 0.54, 95% CI, 0.18–0.90, p < 0.001) played a significant role in this relationship.


A single bout of physical activity can improve academic outcomes in school‐aged youth, which may serve as a complementary tool for the educational field. However, the observed heterogeneity in the results indicates that we should interpret the findings obtained with caution.

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