Investigation of the associations between physical activity, self-regulation and educational outcomes in childhood (2021)
It is common knowledge that physical activity leads to physiological and psychological benefits. The current study explored the association between physical activity and self-regulation longitudinally and the indirect relationship this may have on academic achievement, using secondary data on primary and secondary school children from the Millennium Cohort Study, a cohort of infants born in 2000–2001 in the United Kingdom. There are two main findings. First, there is a positive link between physical activity and emotional (not behavioural) regulation both concurrently and longitudinally across all three time points, 7-years-old, 11-years-old and 14-years-old. The relationship was negative for emotional regulation and negligible for behavioural regulation when controlling for socioeconomic status. Second, across two time points (due to data availability), physical activity positively predicted academic achievement through emotional regulation for 7-year-olds and behavioural regulation in 11-year-olds. The impact of this relationship was more pronounced when controlling for socioeconomic status. Together these findings indicate that emotional regulation is linked to physical activity in early childhood. Subsequently, emotion regulation predicts academic attainment, suggesting that early interventions might focus on attention rather than behaviour.