Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Heather Erwin


Increased levels of obesity, particularly among American youth, have consistently been cause for concern over the last few decades. Additionally, the amount of time youth spend being active throughout the day has consistently decreased. Physical activity levels among school-aged children in America are effected by any number of reasons, but this study points to the possibility of time spent being physically active during the school day having the greatest effect on a student’s overall level of physical activity. Increased pressures from different entities on local schools to improve student performance on standardized test scores have contributed to a decline in students’ time spent being active during the school day. The inverse relationship that exists between levels of obesity and amount of time spent being active is a call to action and cause for more research in this area if a solution is to be reached with the obesity epidemic in America.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of increased physical activity on the academic performance of elementary students in a rural, Central Kentucky community. Academic performance is an overarching term that encompasses academic achievement through standardized testing, academic behavior, and cognitive skills and abilities. Ninety students in 4th and 5th grade with an average age of 10 from one elementary school participated in the study.

After obtaining parental consent and students’ verbal consent, students were divided into two intervention groups and one control group. Each intervention group received extra physical activity for three days a week for four weeks. Activity for students was measured with an EKHO MVPA accelerometer for the duration of each activity session during their respective intervention weeks. Standardized test scores were obtained through the school’s measure of academic progress (MAP) assessment. Student behavior was assessed through direct systematic observation and teacher-based questionnaires. Finally, the STROOP color word test was used to measure student’s cognitive processes and executive functioning skills.

The results from the STROOP color word test provided evidence of a significant relationship between physical activity and cognitive skills (ttest1=2.63, p < .01, ttest2=7.14, p < .001). Additionally, the teacher-based questionnaire demonstrated a significantly positive relationship between physical activity and student behavior (t = -2.65, p < .01). Boys were significantly more active than girls (tfemale = -2.71, p < .01). There were also significant correlations between females and the teacher-based questionnaires, the white race and the STROOP color word test, and the white race and on-task behavior. No significant relationships were found between physical activity and overall academic performance or academic achievement.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)