Lack of Exercise’s Effect on Academic Performance in Primary School Boys

Rebecca Moragne, Research-Highlights Editor

Exercise is beneficial in countless ways from the positive release of endorphins to the decrease in total body fat. Recent research from the University of Eastern Finland with collaboration from the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Cambridge reveal an effect on academic performance from a lack in exercise, particularly in boys.

153 children, aged 6-8 years old in the first three years of primary school, were analyzed for longitudinal associations between both physical activity and sedentary time with reading and arithmetic skills. To measure each participant’s physical activity and sedentary time in first grade, heart rate was measured in addition to the use of movement sensors. And in grades 1-3, reading and arithmetic skills were measured by standardized tests. The collected data revealed that high levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity and low levels of sedentary time are related to higher reading skills in boys in grades 1-3. And high levels of physical activity and low levels of sedentary time were related to higher arithmetic skills in first grade boys. The researchers found no relationship in the studied girls.


Future studies should be continued to analyze how activity can prevent negative changes in academic skills and if this relationship ever applies to girls. In addition, further research should explore why the arithmetic skill difference only occurred in first grade boys but did not continue during the following two years. For now, the study suggests to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary time to improve academic skills in young boys, or at least to prevent a worsening of those skills.


University of Eastern Finland. (2016, November 30). Sedentary lifestyle may impair academic performance in boys. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 2, 2016 from