Special Education M.A.

Year Approved


First Advisor

Bonawitz, Katie


This literature review examines studies that investigated and evaluated the relationship between physical activity and academic achievement in students with disabilities. Research was found and reviewed that used school-aged participants, exercise or physically movement interventions, and standardized tests to measure academic achievement. Several brain regions are involved in both cognitive and motor tasks, which has sparked interest in this area of study. The studies reviewed showed that there is a positive relationship between being more physically active and having improved cognitive abilities. Student participants of the studies showed increased scores on standardized academic tests after participating in a physical exercise intervention. A regular, moderately paced aerobic exercise routine is suggested to be the most beneficial, both health and academically. Incorporating more physical activity in the classroom, outside of standard physical education classes twice per week, is highly recommended. Aerobic physical activity break before beginning academic tasks was found to increase students’ ability to sustain attention and focus on the task, as well as show improved academic performance.

Degree Name

Special Education M.A.

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis