Physical fitness, cognitive functioning and academic achievement in healthy adolescents

Barbara Franca Haverkamp*, Jaap Oosterlaan, Marsh Königs, Esther Hartman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Examine the association between health-related physical fitness (cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular fitness) and skill-related physical fitness (speed-agility) and both cognitive functions and academic achievement in adolescents (12–15 years). Methods: Data of 423 Dutch adolescents were analyzed (46.8% boys, age = 13.45 ± 0.43 years). Physical fitness was assessed using five subtests of the Eurofit test battery measuring cardiorespiratory fitness (20 m Shuttle Run Test), muscular fitness (Broad Jump and Sit-Ups) and speed-agility (10 × 5 m Shuttle Run Test and Plate Tapping Test). Cognitive functions were assessed by the Digit Span Task, the Grid Task and an adapted version of the Attention Network Test. Finally, academic achievement was assessed by two standardized tests assessing mathematic skills and language skills. Multilevel regression analyses were performed in MlWin to examine the relations of interest adjusting for sex and age. Results: Multilevel regression analysis showed that speed-agility was significantly related to visuospatial working memory (β = 0.159; p = 0.014), information processing and control (β = 0.238; p < 0.001) and interference control (β = 0.156; p = 0.039), but not to the other cognitive or academic achievement outcomes. Cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular fitness were not related to any of the cognitive or academic achievement outcomes. Conclusion: The results suggest that skill-related physical fitness is related to cognitive functions and health-related physical fitness is not. Therefore it can be argued that improved levels of skill-related physical fitness may lead to improved cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102060
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research ( 405-16-411 ) and the Dutch Brain Foundation . The authors would like to thank the teachers, parents, adolescents and schools, without whom this work would not have been possible.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Academic achievement
  • Adolescents
  • Cognitive functions
  • Physical fitness


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