Indirect and direct relations between aerobic fitness, physical activity, and academic achievement in elementary school students

K. Lambourne, D. M. Hansen, A. N. Szabo, J. Lee, S. D. Herrmann, J. E. Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background There is evidence to suggest that increasing physical activity (PA) improves academic achievement (AA) in children and that aerobic fitness is associated with both cognitive function and AA. However, it is not known how these variables are interrelated and analyses with adequate control for socioeconomic variables are needed. It was hypothesized that PA would not directly affect AA but would have an indirect effect on AA through its effect on aerobic fitness. The purpose of this study was to test this hypothesized mediation using path analysis. Methods Cross-sectional data including AA, aerobic fitness, and daily PA assessed through accelerometry were collected from a large sample (N = 687) of 2nd and 3rd grade students. Demographic data were assessed via parent self-report. Results A total of 401 students wore the accelerometer for at least 10 h on 3 days or more and were included in the final path analysis to evaluate potential relations among PA (predictor), aerobic fitness (mediator), and WIAT-III subtest standard scores (outcomes; i.e., reading, spelling, and mathematics). Findings showed a direct effect of PA on aerobic fitness (b =.009, p <.001) and an indirect effect (mediation) of PA via fitness on math achievement (b =.003, p <.01) after controlling for student's grade, gender, body mass index, mother's education level, and household income, as well as intraclass correlations among classes and schools. Neither PA nor aerobic fitness were correlated with WIAT-III reading or spelling scores. Conclusions Mediation analysis indicated that PA exerted an influence on math achievement through its effects on aerobic fitness but was not associated with reading or spelling achievement scores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
JournalMental Health and Physical Activity
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Keywords

  • Mediation
  • Path analysis
  • Progressive aerobic cardiovascular endurance run
  • Weschler individual achievement Test-III

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