The effects of light physical activity on learning in adolescents: a systematic review

H.Q. Chim, Hieronymus J.M. Gijselaers, Renate H.M. de Groot, Pascal W.M. Van Gerven, Mirjam G.A. oude Egbrink, Hans H.C.M. Savelberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The effects of light physical activity (LPA) interventions on adolescents’ learning were reviewed. Learning was operationalized as academic performance and academic-performance-related cognitive functions. Using PubMed, Web of Science, ERIC, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, and Cochrane Library, only English-language studies published until 19-07-2021 were included. Of the resulting 49, 34 studies posed a low risk of bias, covering: executive functions (inhibition, updating, and shifting), memory, and academic performance. The quality of evidence of each outcome was very low, mainly due to inconsistencies in results between studies. Nonetheless, most studies found positive (n = 15) or null (n = 14) effects of LPA interventions on adolescents’ learning. Negative effects of LPA interventions were only found from studies with on-task procedures (n = 5). Only two studies utilized longitudinal LPA interventions, of which one reported positive effects, and the other reported null effects. Future studies should explore the role of potential moderators, e.g. timing of LPA interventions with regard to the learning and testing phases. Overall, while introducing LPA in the classroom may be effective at breaking up prolonged sedentary behavior, more high-quality research is needed to establish its positive effect on learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-318
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Academic performance
  • executive function
  • exercise
  • memory
  • youth


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