Exercise and Academic Performance Among Children With Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Disruptive Behavior Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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  • 1 University of Illinois at Chicago
  • 2 Augusta University
  • 3 Florida International University
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Purpose: To examine effects of a 10-week after-school physical activity (PA) program on academic performance of 6- to 12-year-old African American children with behavior problems. Methods: Participants were randomized to PA (n = 19) or sedentary attention control (n = 16) programs. Academic records, curriculum-based measures, and classroom observations were obtained at baseline, postintervention, and/or follow-up. Mixed models tested group × time interactions on academic records and curriculum-based measures. One-way analysis of variance or Kruskal–Wallis tested for differences in postintervention classroom observations. Results: Intent-to-treat analyses demonstrated a moderate effect within groups from baseline to postintervention on disciplinary referrals (PA: d = −0.47; attention control: d = −0.36) and a null moderate effect on academic assessments (PA: d = 0.11 to 0.36; attention control: d = 0.05 to 0.40). No significant group × time interactions emerged on direct academic assessments (all Ps ≥ .05, d = −0.23 to 0.26) or academic records (all Ps ≥ .05, d = −0.28 to 0.16). Classroom observations revealed that intervention participants were off-task due to moving at twice the rate of comparative classmates (F = 15.74, P < .001) and were off-task due to talking 33% more often (F = 1.39, P = .257). Conclusion: Academic outcome improvements were small within and between groups and did not sustain at follow-up. Academic benefits of after-school PA programs for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and/or disruptive behavior disorders were smaller than neurobiological, behavioral, and cognitive outcomes as previously reported.

Ramer, Santiago-Rodríguez, Marquez, and Bustamante are with the University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA. Davis is with Augusta University, Augusta, GA, USA. Frazier is with Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA.

Bustamante (ebusta2@uic.edu) is corresponding author.
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