Sport and school performance

Katherine B. Owen et al., (2021). Sport Participation and Academic Performance in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise

Introduction: Physical activity can improve academic performance; however, much less is known about the specific association between sport participation and academic performance and this evidence has not been synthesised. Our aim was to systematically review and combine via meta-analyses evidence of the association between sport participation and academic performance in children and adolescents.

Methods: We conducted searches of five electronic databases using sport and academic performance related terms. We combined evidence from eligible studies using a structural equation modelling approach to multilevel meta-analysis.

Results: From 115 eligible studies, most of which had a high risk of bias (k = 87), we meta-analysed 298 effect sizes. Overall, sport participation had a small positive effect on academic performance (d = 0.26, 95% CIs 0.09, 0.42). Moderator analyses indicated that sports participation was most beneficial for academic performance when it was at a moderate dose (i.e., 1-2 hours per week), compared to no sport or a high dose of sport (3+ hours per week).

Conclusion: Sports participation during school hours was more beneficial for academic performance compared to sport participation outside of school hours. Based on mostly low-quality studies, we found some evidence that sport could positively impact academic performance in children and adolescents. It appears that sport participation of a moderate dose and at school could be used to promote academic performance. However, if this field were to inform policy, high-quality studies are needed that provide insight into the effect of dose and sport characteristics on academic performance.

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