Purpose. For schools, the increasingly imposed requirement to achieve well in academic tests puts increasing emphasis on improving academic achievement. While treadmill exercise has been shown to have beneficial effects on cognitive function and cycling ergometers produce stronger effect sizes than treadmill running, it is impractical for schools to use these on a whole-class basis. There is a need to examine if more ecologically valid modes of exercise might have a similar impact on academic achievement. Circuit training is one such modality shown to benefit cognitive function and recall ability and is easily operationalised within schools. Methods. In a repeated measures design, twenty-six children (17 boys, 8 girls) aged 10-11 years (mean age 10.3; SD ± 0.46 years) completed the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT 4) at rest and following 30 minutes of exercise. Results. Standardised scores for word reading were significantly higher post exercise (F(1,18) = 49.9, p = 0.0001) compared to rest. In contrast, standardised scores for sentence comprehension (F(1,18) = 0.078, p = 0.783), spelling (F(1,18) = 4.07, p = 0.06) mathematics (F(1,18) = 1.257, p = 0.277), and reading (F(1,18) = 2.09, p = 0.165) were not significantly different between rest and exercise conditions. Conclusions. The results of the current study suggest acute bouts of circuit based exercise enhances word reading but not other areas of academic ability in 10-11 year old children. These findings support prior research that indicates acute bouts of exercise can selectively improve cognition in children.
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