Defence: Physically active learn more easily

Youth who are physically active perform better on national tests. Even if you take time from theory lessons to engage in physical activity, the results will be better. And if you do more intense activity, it goes even better.



May 20


Aud. Innsikt, NIH




These are some of the results in the doctoral dissertation that Runar Barstad Solberg will defend at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (NIH) on 20 May 2022:

“Physical activity, physical fitness and academic performance among adolescents. Intervention effects from the School in Motion study – a cluster randomized controlled trial”

Most important findings 

  • One intervention model affected physical activity levels favorably  
  • Both intervention models increased academic performance 
  • Aerobic fitness might be an important factor in the relationship between physical activity and academic performance among adolescents  

Emerging evidence suggests a favourable relationship between physical activity, aerobic fitness and academic performance. Recent data shows that physical activity levels decrease through adolescence, whilst only 50% of Norwegian 15-year-olds are sufficiently active meeting physical activity guidelines of ≥ 60 minutes in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) per day.

Accordingly, there is a need to develop interventions that can effectively change behaviour, leading to increased physical activity, physical fitness and academic performance among adolescents. 

This dissertation is based on a school-based, physical activity cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) titled School in Motion (ScIM). This dissertation investigates the intervention effects of ScIM on adolescents’ physical activity level, physical fitness and academic performance. ScIM was a nine-month cluster RCT.

In total, 30 Norwegian secondary schools were randomized to one of three study arms;

  • the physically active learning (PAL) (n = 10);
  • the Don’t worry-Be happy (DWBH) intervention (n = 10);
  • or control (n = 10).

The PAL intervention included 30 min physically active learning, 30 min physical activity and a 60 min physical education (PE) lesson per week. The DWBH intervention included a 60 min physical activity lesson and a 60 min PE lesson per week. Both components in the DWBH intervention was tailored to promote friendships and wellbeing. The control group continued as usual, including the standard amount of mandatory PE.

The PAL and DWBH interventions were designed to engage the adolescents in 120 min of physical activity per week in addition to recess and mandatory physical education (PE) lessons. Parental consent was obtained from 2,084 adolescent students (76%).  

The results from this thesis has shown that implementing two hours of extra physical activity among adolescents have several positive effects. The PAL intervention is effective in curbing the decline in physical activity observed throughout adolescents, whilst also increasing the adolescent’s aerobic fitness. Furthermore, both the PAL and DWBH interventions have proven to be feasible methods to increase academic performance among adolescents. As aerobic fitness mediated the intervention effect on academic performance in the PAL intervention, physical activity of an intensity that increases aerobic fitness is one strategy to improve academic performance among adolescents. 





10:15-11:00 Trial lecture

Discuss key issues and future directions for the design and implementation of whole-school approaches to physical activity

13:00-16:00 Public defence

“Physical activity, physical fitness and academic performance among adolescents. Intervention effects from the School in Motion study - a cluster randomized controlled trial” 

NB! A direct link will be available when the event starts. 

General information

The defence is open to the public. Welcome! 

The defence will be streamed via NIH’s YouTube channel and will also be available as recording afterwards, via the provided links.

Contact us

Solveig Sunde

Solveig Sunde

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Phone: +47 23 26 23 45 / +47 930 86 045

Sigmund Alfred Anderssen

Sigmund Alfred Anderssen

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