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Leisure-Time Physical Activity and Academic Performance: Cross-Lagged Associations from Adolescence to Young Adulthood

Sari Aaltonen, Antti Latvala, Richard J Rose, Urho M Kujala, Jaakko Kaprio, Karri Silventoinen
Scientific Reports 2016 December 15, 6: 39215
27976699
Physical activity and academic performance are positively associated, but the direction of the association is poorly understood. This longitudinal study examined the direction and magnitude of the associations between leisure-time physical activity and academic performance throughout adolescence and young adulthood. The participants were Finnish twins (from 2,859 to 4,190 individuals/study wave) and their families. In a cross-lagged path model, higher academic performance at ages 12, 14 and 17 predicted higher leisure-time physical activity at subsequent time-points (standardized path coefficient at age 14: 0.07 (p < 0.001), age 17: 0.12 (p < 0.001) and age 24: 0.06 (p < 0.05)), whereas physical activity did not predict future academic performance. A cross-lagged model of co-twin differences suggested that academic performance and subsequent physical activity were not associated due to the environmental factors shared by co-twins. Our findings suggest that better academic performance in adolescence modestly predicts more frequent leisure-time physical activity in late adolescence and young adulthood.

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