Research Study Abstract

The Sedentary Scholar Prevails? Associations Between Physcial Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Academic Performance in Australian Children

  • Presented on April 2014

Background: Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and more recently, sedentary behaviour, have well recognised health consequences. However, academic sequelae are less well understood. Some educators assert that promoting MVPA and discouraging sedentary behaviours in schools is important to maximise academic outcomes. Aim: To examine associations between MVPA, sedentary behaviour and academic performance in a cross-sectional sample of 9-11 year old children.

Methods: 528 9-11 year old children residing in Adelaide were recruited as part of the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and Environment (ISCOLE). Minutes of daily and within-school MVPA and sedentary behaviour, along with sleep duration, were determined from 7-day hip-worn actigraphy. Demographic details (age, sex, highest parental education level, household income and family structure) were collected by parental survey. Of these, 375 consented for their data to be matched with results from the annual, compulsory national literacy and numeracy testing (NAPLAN – National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy), assessed across 5 academic domains. Associations were examined using multivariable linear regression.

Results: Adjusted R2 values suggested that MVPA and sedentary behaviour, along with the sleep and sociodemographic covariates, accounted for 7-19% of variance in academic performance. Higher academic performance was (1) consistently associated with higher sedentary time across all academic domains (p=<0.001-0.01); (2) inconsistently and weakly associated with higher MVPA (p=0.001-0.41); (3) consistently associated with higher parental education (p=<0.001- 0.002).

Conclusion: Results suggest that sedentary time may be important for maximizing academic outcomes. However, potential academic benefits should be balanced against the potential detrimental health impacts of sedentary behaviour.


  • Carol Maher
  • Lucy K Lewis
  • Leah Cassidy
  • Tim Church
  • Peter T. Katzmarzyk
  • Tim Olds

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