Effect of Breakfast and Exercise on Academic and Cognitive Performance in Junior College Students

Project Number
OER 01/13 SFB

Project Duration
January 2014 - October 2016


One Key Stage Outcome of Education and the Ministry of Education is that it aspires to develop in children, healthy lifestyle habits and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Two factors in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle are a regular breakfast intake and regular physical activity. However, whilst these factors are important for health outcomes, evidence suggests their influence extends beyond this and that they can influence academic and cognitive performance in both the short-term (acute effect) and long-term (chronic effect). It is likely that in the short-term breakfast increases satiety and blood glucose (sugar) levels thereby increasing concentration and attention. Similarly, acute exercise has been suggested to influence activity and excitation of areas of the brain which might facilitate cognitive functions such as attention. However, no short-term, or long-term, studies have examined the effect of the combination of breakfast and exercise on academic and cognitive performance. This is an interesting question as the effect of combining breakfast and exercise on academic and cognitive performance could be additive, produce an effect which is greater than the sum of their parts, or possibly interfere with each other. This final possibility exists as exercise can decrease blood glucose concentrations and sometimes stimulate hunger. Thus, the aim and hypothesis of the proposed investigation is: Specific Aim: To examine the effect of breakfast intake and exercise on short-term academic and cognitive performance in Junior College and school children. Hypothesis: Junior College and school students who eat a breakfast in combination with a single exercise session will demonstrate improved short-term academic and cognitive performance compared with students who remain fasted and sedentary. Two hundred (200) children aged 15-18 years will be recruited to the study from local Junior Colleges and schools. After informed consent and screening, participants will be randomly allocated to one of four groups in an experimental, laboratory-based study: i) no breakfast and no exercise (NB-NE); ii) breakfast and no exercise (B-NE); iii) no breakfast and exercise (NB-E); iv) breakfast and exercise (B-E). Participants in the two exercise trials will complete a 30 minute exercise session in the morning. Participants on the two breakfast trials will receive a meal of low-moderate glycaemic index and load designed by a qualified dietitian. For all trials, tests of academic and cognitive performance and measures of motivation, arousal, mental effort, brain function, hunger and satiety and blood glucose will be made pre- and post-intervention. Differences will be compared among groups. This research has classroom relevance. The school day in Singapore starts at 0730. Many children wake up early to travel long durations and distances to reach school and may be unable to eat anything until the first recess period in mid-morning. Physical Education lessons from secondary school level onwards are typically held in the early morning but not on a daily basis. Thus, many children do not get any exercise until after school or in co-curricular activities held later in the day as they often take public transport to school or are driven by their parents. The proposed study would be a first step in demonstrating the importance of having an active start to the school day and being in a good nutritional state on academic and cognitive outcomes.

Funding Source

Related Links
NIE Research Briefs No. 16-002: Breakfast and Exercise Influence Academic Performance in Adolescents

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