Physical Activity Improves Cognitive Performance in Adolescents: Study

For most parents, they want their children to have every possible opportunity in life. In general, this also typically includes wanting their children to perform well in school. On the other hand, with technological advances, children seem to spend more time than ever watching television or playing video games.

If you have children, do they sit around watching television, surfing the Internet, or playing video games? Do you encourage your children to get involved in sports instead? A new research study published in the Journal of Pediatrics (2010) explored the association between participation in sports and cognitive performance (Ruiz et al, 2010).

[box type=”note”]The study itself was a cross-sectional design and included 1820 adolescents between the ages of 13 to 18.5 in Sweden. To measure cognitive performance, the researchers used the “SRA-Test of Educational Ability” which includes verbal, numeric, and reasoning ability measures.[/box]

physical activity cognition

Physical Activity and Cognitive Performance:

Participation in physical sports was associated with better cognitive performance across all variables (p<.001). This result was independent of other potential confounding factors such as physical fitness and body mass index.

Watch TV, Study Less?

Conversely, time spent watching TV, playing video games, or even devoted to study were not associated with cognitive performance. However, children that were involved in physical sports did spend less time watching TV and playing video games. As well, these researchers found that the children who played sports did not spend less time studying than their peers.

Watch TV, Get Fat?

Though time spent watching TV and video games didn’t adversely affect cognitive performance in children from this study, it was associated with negative effects on body mass index, strength, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Not too surprising, right? Further, the researchers found that the more kids played video games and watched TV, the less time they spent studying.


  1. Ruiz JR, Ortega FB, Castillo R, Martín-Matillas M, Kwak L, Vicente-Rodríguez G, Noriega J, Tercedor P, Sjöström M, Moreno LA; on behalf of the AVENA Study Group. Physical Activity, Fitness, Weight Status, and Cognitive Performance in Adolescents. J Pediatr. 2010 Jul 29.

3 thoughts on “Physical Activity Improves Cognitive Performance in Adolescents: Study

  • March 19, 2011 at 7:35 am


    I do think however that sports does not only help the physical and social side of a person, but also the cognitive aspects (brain synchrony). Motor planing requires cognitive function, and thus, more one plans, more the brain will learn how to optimize brain synchronisation…

  • August 9, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I think in general it’s just better to get out and exercise more because it produces feel good endorphins. Physical activity can also help kids develop more social skills so that they are better able to socialize with kids their age therefore potentially improving their cognitive performance in school.

    • August 19, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      Mandy, great points. Participating in team sports is a great way for kids to develop their social skills too as you mention.


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