Preprint / Version 1

Are changes in cardiorespiratory fitness resulting from physical activity interventions related to changes in executive function and academic performance in children and adolescents?

A systematic review and meta-regression


  • Samuel Tuvey
  • James Steele
  • Elizabeth Horton
  • Xian Mayo
  • Gary Liguori
  • Nadja Willinger
  • Alfonso Jimenez



physical activity, physical education, sports, youth


Physical activity (PA) interventions in children and adolescents are thought to improve cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), and possibly executive function (EF), and academic performance (AP). It is thought that the impact of PA upon CRF might be associated with improved EF and AP. However, previous meta-analyses have not examined this relationships. Thus, we conducted a systematic review and meta-regression of intervention studies that reported a pre- and a post-intervention measure of CRF and AP and/or EF and included a control group. A total of 17 studies were included. PA interventions had the following main effects: 0.24 [95% CI=0.09, 0.40] for CRF; 0.11 [95% CI=-0.16, 0.38] for AP; and 0.02 [95% CI=-0.09, 0.13] for EF after removal of influential studies. Meta-regression for CRF changes upon EF outcomes suggested a small effect ranging from negative trivial to moderate (β = 0.26 [95% CI=-0.18, 0.70]). For CRF changes upon AP outcomes the estimate was trivial with poor precision ranging negative to positive large effects (β = -0.04 [95% CI=-1.52, 1.45]). Despite small positive effects upon CRF, the effects upon EF or AP are less clear. Further, it seems unlikely improvements in CRF from PA interventions are associated with changes EF or AP.