Relevant Research Findings
Executive functions play a central role in current and future academic achievement, (Blair and Razza, 2007; McClelland et al., 2007; Bull et al., 2008; Clark et al., 2010; Geary et al., 2012), as well as in self-concept (Mulder et al. 2017), social competence and future employment success.
Executive functions have been shown as early as two years of age to predict math and language achievement at age 5 (Mulder, et al., 2017).
Early cognitive-motor interventions that engage children’s executive functions promote social and academic development (Diamond & Lee, 2011).
Complex coordinative exercises may provide effective stimuli for prefrontal cortex development and consequently for the development of cognitive function in children (Gallotta et al., 2015).
Research studies with children reveal positive relationships between cognitive functions and physical activity (Alesi et al., 2016; Bidzun-Bluma & Lipowska, 2018) as well as between cognitive and motor functions (Davis et al., 2011).
Self-regulation has been established as a key mechanism associated with a variety of outcomes including school readiness (Blair and Razza, 2007; McClelland et al., 2007a; Morrison et al., 2010), academic achievement during childhood and adolescence (McClelland et al., 2006; Cameron Ponitz et al., 2009; Duckworth et al., 2010; Li-Grining et al., 2010), and long- term health and educational outcomes (Moffitt et al., 2011; McClelland et al., 2013), as cited in McClelland et al., 2014.
The behavioral aspects of self-regulation may be especially important for academic and school success (McClelland et al., 2007a; Cameron Ponitz et al., 2009; McClelland and Cameron, 2012) as cited in McClelland et al., 2014.
Physically fit students outperform non-fit students academically (American Heart Association, 2010).
For many students acute moderately-vigorous activity prior to an academic event (test, learning a new skill) improves learning outcomes (Have et al., 2018).
Intervention studies suggest that both acute and longitudinal physical activity benefits cognition, (Bidzan-Bluma & Lipowska 2018; de Greeff et al. 2017; Donnelly et al., 2016).
A single bout of physical activity can be a successful strategy to stimulate attention in children between the ages of 6 and 12 years (de Greeff et al., 2018).
Intervention programs that implement continuous regular physical activity over several weeks are more likely to improve executive functions and academic performance than a single bout of physical activity, (de Greeff et al. 2018).
Interventions programs over several weeks that include cognitively challenging physical activities seem to be more effective in improving cognitive performance than aerobic physical activity (de Greeff et al., 2018).
When doing classroom-based physical activity cognitive engagement has been shown to improve attention and processing speed (Schmidt et al., 2016).
The strong predictive validity of motor coordination for EF and of the latter for academic achievement suggests that children engage in physical activities, which are both cognitively and coordinatively demanding (Schmidt et al., 2017).
Classroom Physical-Activity Breaks are gaining momentum. Ten-to fifteen-minute school-day PA breaks not only increase daily physical activity but are also associated with higher academic achievement, greater on-task behavior and positive affect (Mullins et al., 2019).
Physically active classroom lessons improve time on task, math and spelling in a sample of 2nd-6th graders (Szabo-Reed et al. 2019).
Different types of physical activity impact cognition (academic, traditional physical education, aerobic) and achievement to different degrees (Vazou et al., 2019), further investigation is needed.