The Correlation between physical activity and academic performanceFeatured science projectScience project video

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
1 day to prepare, 4 days for experiment
Material availability:
Easily found. Ideas for questions may be obtained from textbooks, past examination papers and the internet.
Safety concerns:

Ensure that the students engage in low risk physical activities


This experiment was done to investigate the benefits of performing physical activity before students take an exam.


Doing physical activity before taking an exam improves exam performance.


The mind and exercise

Physical exercise is good for the health of our bodies and minds. Exercise helps us improve learning ability by making our minds sharper and more alert. Research has shown that a short 10 minutes of light exercise such as walking, jogging or riding a bicycle is enough to alter the level of hormones and chemicals in our brain. It makes us more alert, makes us feel happier and increases confidence.

Scientific Terms

Chemicals, hormones


The materials required for this experiment:

  • 5 boys and 5 girls aged 15
  • 2 sets of mathematics exam papers of equal difficulty (labeled mathematics Paper A and Paper B)
  • 2 sets of science exam papers of equal difficulty (labeled science Paper A and Paper B)
  • 2 sets of history exam papers of equal difficulty (labeled history Paper A and Paper B)
  • 2 sets of geography exam papers of equal difficulty (labeled geography Paper A and Paper B)
  • A quiet examination room
  • A field to perform physical exercise
  • An assistant to help coordinate the physical exercise and examination 


  1. For this experiment, the independent variable is the exercise and exam topic. The dependent variable is the examination score. This is determined by marking and grading the papers. The constants (control variables) are the difficulty level of the exam papers, the number of questions and the duration of physical exercise and the examination.
  2. Two sets of examination papers of equal difficulty are prepared for 4 subjects ?mathematics, science, history and geography. Each subject is labeled A and B. Each exam paper will consist of 50 multiple choice questions. 10 copies are made of each exam paper.
  3. Prepare an answer guide to facilitate marking and grading the papers after each exam.
  4. The examination time table is handed out to the students
  5. Day 1 and 2 - Mathematics
  6. Day 2 and 3 - Science
  7. Day 3 and 4 - History
  8. Day 4 and 5 - Geography
  9. On the day of the exam the 5 boys and 5 girls are brought into the examination hall and seated. The Set A examination papers for each subject are distributed to the students. They are given 90 minutes to complete the examination.
  10. The students are asked to go home.
  11. The next day, the students are assembled in the field to perform some light physical exercise for 30 minutes. You can choose to make them jog, cycle or walk.
  12. After exercising, the students are asked to rest for 45 minutes.
  13. After the period of rest, instruct the students to enter the exam hall again. Seat the 5 boys and 5 girls in the examination hall and distribute the Set B exam papers. Once again, allow them 90 minutes to complete the examination.
  14. Collect the exam scripts at the end of the experiment.
  15. Repeat steps 5 to 10 for each of the four examination subjects.
  16. Mark and grade all of the exam papers and record the results in the table given below.


The results show that the student examination performance is better after performing the physical exercise. The boys scored an average of 64.5% before the exercise and 71.5% after the exercise. The boy results have improved 7% after the physical exercise. The girls scored 69.5% before the exercise and 75% after the exercise. The girl results have improved 5.5% after the physical exercise.

Grouping Exam Paper A (%) Avg Exam paper B (%) Avg
1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
Boys (Mathematics) 56 64 78 72 60 66% 62 68 80 76 74 72%
Boys (Science) 64 82 74 66 64 70% 68 88 84 78 72 78%
Boys (History) 58 66 68 66 52 62% 64 74 74 72 56 68%
Boys (Geography) 58 62 64 64 70 60% 62 70 68 68 72 68%
Boys Average Average before exercise 64.5% Average after exercise 71.5%
Girls (Mathematics) 72 78 66 64 70 70% 76 88 72 70 74 76%
Girls (Science) 82 78 68 70 82 76% 90 84 72 76 88 82%
Girls (History) 74 70 64 66 66 68% 78 76 66 68 72 72%
Girls (Geography) 70 66 58 58 68 64% 74 72 64 66 74 70%
Girls Average Average before exercise 69.5% Average after exercise 75%


The hypothesis that performing some physical activity before sitting for an examination should improve the performance of students, is proven to be true.

Japanese factory and office workers have the habit of performing some light exercise before starting work in the morning. This is not only a team bonding experience, but this habit probably has contributed to a sharper and more hardworking workforce in Japan.

Our schools should also be encouraged to allocate some time for light exercise to be performed on a daily basis before class begins!

Also consider

The experiment can be repeated by having a longer time for the physical exercise.

Would changing the rest period in between the physical activity and taking the examination affect the overall results?

Try to repeat the experiment using younger or older students. Also, try performing the experiment on a much larger group of students for more accurate/reliable results.


  • The human brain -
  • Mood altering exercise -