Few studies have investigated the independent associations of lifestyle behaviors (diet, physical activity, sleep, and screen time) and body weight status with academic achievement. Even fewer studies have investigated the combined effect of these behaviors on academic achievement. While many health promotion initiatives based in schools have focused on singular components of a healthy lifestyle; addressing multiple behaviors simultaneously may produce cumulative benefits that impact both health and academic outcomes.

To investigate the independent and combined effects of lifestyle behaviours, as well as body weight status, on children’s academic achievement on standardized exams we conducted analyses using a large, population-based sample of grade 5 students from Nova Scotia, Canada.

We found that lifestyle behaviors, not body weight status, are strongly associated with student academic performance. Meeting dietary recommendations was associated with increased likelihood of meeting academic expectations for each of math, reading and writing. Meeting recommendations for screen time and sleep was associated with meeting expectations for writing. For all three subjects, meeting additional lifestyle behavior recommendations was associated with higher likelihood of meeting expectations.

Our research provides compelling evidence that promoting compliance with established healthy lifestyle recommendations could improve both the health and educational outcomes of school-aged children. School-based health promotion initiatives that target multiple lifestyle behaviors may have a greater effect on academic achievement than those that focus on a single behavior.

Find the full open-access article here:

Faught E, Ekwaru JP, Gleddie D, Storey KE, Asbridge M, Veugelers PJ (2017). The combined impact of diet, physical activity, sleep and screen time on academic achievement: a prospective study of elementary students in Nova Scotia, Canada. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 14(29).

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