B-32 Free Communication/Poster - Epidemiology of Physical Activity and Health in Youth Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 1: 00 PM - 6: 00 PM Room: Exhibit Hall A/B
Previous studies have suggested that the level of leisure-time physical activity is positively associated with cognitive performance and educational attainment. However, the direction of the association is unclear.
PURPOSE: The aim of the study was to examine the direction and magnitude of the associations between leisure-time physical activity and academic performance in a longitudinal study across adolescence and young adulthood.
METHODS: The participants were families with twins (born 1983-1987) taking part in the population-based FinnTwin12 study. The twins were surveyed at ages 12, 14, 17 and 22 years. Altogether, 4350 twins were included in the analyses. Self-reported questionnaire data at each study wave were used to assess the frequency of leisure-time physical activity. Academic performance was assessed with teacher-reported grade point average at ages 12 and 14 and with self-reported student status and educational level at ages 17 and 22 years, respectively. A cross-lagged path model with data from the four time points was conducted in the Mplus statistical software package, treating sex as well as parents’ education and physical activity level as covariates.
RESULTS: Across age, leisure-time physical activity and academic performance were positively associated. The associations were the strongest between the frequency of leisure-time physical activity at age 22 years and academic performance at all four ages; the polychoric correlations ranged between 0.27 (p=0.12) and 0.37 (p<0.05). In the cross-lagged path model, higher academic performance at ages 12, 14 and 17 years predicted statistically significantly higher levels of leisure-time physical activity in the follow-up time-points (standardized path coefficients at ages 14 (0.07, p=0.002), 17 (0.13, p<0.001) and 22 (0.08, p=0.04)), even though the previous level of leisure-time physical activity as well as parents’ education and physical activity level were taken into account. In contrast, physical activity did not predict later academic performance at any time point.
CONCLUSION: The results indicate that a higher level of academic performance in adolescence is modestly associated with increased leisure-time physical activity in late adolescence and young adulthood independently of the prior level of leisure-time physical activity.