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Education plays a significant role in a person’s development, career opportunities, and social well-being. Many students fail to demonstrate appropriate academic performance and fail to receive a lot of social and economic benefits. Poor academic performance is associated with a variety of factors, the impact of which should be clarified to understand and address the identified problem. For example, the analysis of 1035 students shows that a lack of adherence to proper nutrition anticipates the failure of standardizing academic tests (Pearce et al., 2018). This paper aims to explore eating patterns, sleep features, and physical activity, which are the key issues that affect one’s educational success. The following inquiry question is formulated to guide this literature review: how do different lifestyles affect a student’s academic performance?
Associations Between Academic Performance and Student Lifestyles
To review and collect the relevant articles, it was decided to search the EBSCO database that provides a wide range of scholarly articles on the topic of student lifestyles and education. The following keywords were used to search the information: academic performance, student lifestyles, physical activity, sleep duration, video gaming, and eating patterns. The five articles that are discussed in this literature review were sorted based on such criteria as relevance, time of publication (published after 2014), the peer-reviewed nature, and research quality. This paper is organized according to the major themes that were revealed in the course of the preliminary review, such as physical activity, eating patterns, and sleep / leisure time.
Physical Activity and Sedentary Lifestyle
The physical activity of students makes an advantageous impact on their learning outcomes. According to the results of the recent study by Dumuid et al., (2017), it was found that children who lead an active lifestyle demonstrate better academic performance compared to those who are not engaged in sports. This cohort experiment was attended by 284 children aged 9-11 years, who live and study in Australia (Dumuid et al., 2017). The authors confirmed that the connection between academic performance and physical activity was systemic. The best indicators were seen inactive children, but those who had started to lead a similar lifestyle eventually achieved similar results. In addition to the fact that physical exercises contribute to improving blood circulation in the brain, they also reduce stress and contribute to improving the mood of students, thereby improving their performance.
The intensity of physical activity is another area of research that received significant attention. Pino-Juste, Portela-Pino, and Abalde-Amoedo (2017) state that there are various tendencies in how students do sports, depending on age, gender, and personal preferences. For example, these authors determined the links between the grade and physical activity – the higher the grade, the greater the abandonment of physical activity. More to the point, it should be stressed that male students are more likely to do sports, while females seem to be more resistant to exercises. Pino-Justeet al. (2017) distinguish between three levels of physical activity, including low, moderate, and high. However, they claim that no links were detected between the academic performance and the intensity, but the advantageous impact was verified. In other words, the findings made by the mentioned scholars allow concluding that the level of exercise is a secondary factor.
The results obtained by Pino-Juste, et al. (2017) are consistent with those of Dumuid et al. (2017), even though the latter applied a broader approach. The key limitation of these articles refers to conducting the studies in a moderate environment, which means that students with no or few problems were enrolled. Nevertheless, both of the above articles propose the idea of further research with an emphasis on the psychological, emotional, cognitive, and social benefits of physical activity in the context of student academic performance. Pino-Juste et al. (2017) also claim that children who participate in sports and learn to play by the rules become more disciplined and able to concentrate better during the lessons. Physical activity is important at any age, without which it is difficult to strengthen and maintain the health of the child. In this regard, it is recommended to devote an hour to balanced physical activity daily to improve the health status of students.
The associations between the dietary patterns of students and their academic performance are positive. The cross-sectional study initiated by Pearce et al. (2018) proved that excessive consumption of fast food negatively affects their school performance. Based on the examination of data of 315 children aged 9-11, the authors explored their performance in numeracy, reading, writing, and language. The National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was used to measure the participants’ information. In particular, the more fast food students consume in lower grades, the worse their grades in literature, mathematics, and science in higher grades. Children who eat hamburgers, French fries, and other fast foods more than three times a week received lower grades than their peers who lead a healthy lifestyle.
In their turn, Dumuid et al., (2017) also identified the direct correlation between poor nutrition and low academic performance. One of the key underpinning reasons for such a conclusion is the insufficient intake of vegetables and fruits with high consumption of saturated fats. This results in the deficiency of nutrients and minerals, leaving a child with low cognitive performance. The second reason is the need for more “flavonoids that are polyphenolic molecules involved in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (Dumuid et al., 2017, p. 922). The results presented by Pearce et al. (2018) point to similar considerations about the importance of nutrition. These authors suggest that children consuming fast food often are deficient in important nutrients, in particular, iron, which is necessary for cognitive development. In addition, the high content of sugars and fat in food disrupts the formation of short-term memory and complicates the learning process. The researchers do not offer parents to completely ban fast food for children, but its intake should be reduced to a minimum.
However, it should be emphasized that contrary to Pearce et al. (2018), Dumuid et al. (2017) did not find the advantageous impact of a nutritious diet on student academic success. It turned out that children eating healthy foods did not demonstrate the best reading and writing skills during the first school years. The study did not show that those students who had more vegetables, fruits, berries, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fats and less sugar on their menus performed better on literacy tests. In other words, fast food and poor quality food are regarded as detrimental to student academic performance, yet the impact of a nutritious diet was not confirmed. At the same time, Dumuid et al. (2017) raise an essential question of the role of additives, such as colors and preservatives. Both of the articles reviewed in this section point to the need to conduct more studies in the field of student academic behaviors and their eating patterns.
Leisure Time: Sleep and Weekday / Weekend Video Gaming
The leisure time of students as a particular social group is the main factor determining the state of their health. Appropriate rest has a positive impact on the body of a young person, the characteristics of his or her personality, and academic performance – the better health, the more effective the learning process. Based on literature data, it is possible to single out the consequences of sleep disturbances, which affect students’ intellectual indicators, academic performance, and quality of life (Dumuid et al., 2017). A decrease in the effectiveness of memory mechanisms, cognitive activity, and overall mood are also important consequences of this violation.
Sleep duration is largely associated with student academic performance, and nocturnal sleep is assigned a top priority for school-age children. In the course of the recent study, Reynolds, Boergers, Kopel, and Koinis-Mitchell (2018) analyzed data on 249 children aged 7-9 years. The information was collected from urban children having asthma, where elementary and middle school students abide by the regime that prescribes daytime sleep. Each of the study participants reported on the frequency and duration of daytime sleep, and teachers provided information on the achievements of the children in school and their behavior. In addition, specialists were interested in the results of cognitive and psychological tests, as well as the physical indicators of children (body mass index and blood glucose levels). Reynolds et al. (2018) examined the relationship between each indicator and daytime sleep, taking into account the gender of the child, the duration of night sleep, and other factors.
The value of the study by Reynolds et al. (2018) lies in the fact that they focused on children with asthma that is expressed in allergic rhinitis and sleep disorder breathing. At the same time, these issues impact the quality of sleep and vice versa. The authors assumed that those children who have asthma are more likely to have distorted sleep and low academic performance. Based on their study and the review of other works, Reynolds et al. (2018) state that the cumulative impact of asthma presentations is likely to promote more missed school days and poor sleep. In this connection, it becomes evident that children should be evaluated in a complex manner, including all their comorbidities. It is especially important to stress that the ethnic minorities, African-Americans and Latinos, are at a higher risk of both asthma and school absences. Thus, the conclusion is that shorter sleep duration leads to lower academic performance since it is associated with missing lessons.
As a result of the article presented by Dumuid et al. (2017), it turned out that children who had appropriate periods of sleep were happier and showed better self-control. They also had fewer behavioral problems and a higher level of intelligence than their peers who refused to sleep during the day. Also, a long healthy sleep improves the overall health of primary school students since it is associated with less comorbidity. If the children go to bed always at different times, then they cannot fall asleep for a long time. Those who adopted the habit of going to bed at the same time quickly fall asleep, while a lack of sleep violates the immune system and provokes disorders in the nervous system. For children who are weakened, often ill, with a weak nervous system, the best rest is an hour and a half-day of sleep in a well-ventilated room (Dumuid et al., 2017). Sleep also contributes to the unloading of the musculoskeletal system and serves as a good prevention of posture disorders.
For many years, the question of the dangers of video games has been addressed by researchers from different perspectives, with a major opinion that they violate student academic activities. The fears in this regard are not only doubted but also reconsidered since they can be beneficial. In particular, working with a computer develops attention as well as logical and abstract thinking (Hartanto, Toh, & Yang, 2018). Computer games help children learn how to make independent decisions, as well as quickly switch from one activity to another. They have a good effect on the creative abilities of children, which they can use for school assignments. The main factors of the harmful effects of video games on the human body are vision decrease, the violation of posture, and the psychological dependence of the child on the virtual world. Given these factors, parents should help organize their child’s most secure environment when interacting with a computer. It should also be stated that the positive impact was detected only in the participants who played video games at weekends.
Video games played at weekends develop memory, attention, and ingenuity, improving higher cognitive functions, including the ability to perform several tasks at the same time. In the journal Computers and Education, Hartanto et al. (2018) published the results of the study of 30,000 adolescents aged 14 to 18 years. The scholars found that video games not only correlate with higher intelligence but also make children more sociable; however, they do not affect mental health. The study showed that out of 8971 children, the majority play video games more several times a week. Various factors influence the number of playing hours: age, gender, family size, and family relationships. Children of poorly educated, single, unemployed, or psychologically afflicted parents spend less time playing computer games. Most importantly, those children who played on weekdays demonstrated lower performance in mathematics, science, and reading. In other words, the academic performance of students can be either enhanced or improved by video gaming, depending on the context.
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To conclude, one should emphasize that the lifestyles of school-age children largely determine their academic performance. This literature review revealed that physical activity is associated with an increase in academic behaviors, while its intensity cannot be noted as a decisive factor. The overall sedentary lifestyles, short sleep, and poor nutrition were marked as the factors that reduce students’ ability to learn effectively. However, a nutritious diet was not related to better academic performance. As for video gaming, the review of the literature indicates that children who play at weekends are more likely to have higher grades compared to academic failures of those who play on weekdays. Overall, the factors discussed in this paper should be considered in combination since they compose the lifestyle of a student and impact his or her academic success.
Dumuid, D., Olds, T., Martín-Fernández, J. A., Lewis, L. K., Cassidy, L., & Maher, C. (2017). Academic performance and lifestyle behaviors in Australian school children: A cluster analysis. Health Education & Behavior, 44(6), 918-927.
Hartanto, A., Toh, W. X., & Yang, H. (2018). Context counts: The different implications of weekday and weekend video gaming for academic performance in mathematics, reading, and science. Computers & Education, 120, 51-63.
Pearce, K., Golley, R., Lewis, L., Cassidy, L., Olds, T., & Maher, C. (2018). The apples of academic performance: Associations between dietary patterns and academic performance in Australian children. Journal of School Health, 88(6), 444-452.
Pino-Juste, M., Portela-Pino, I., & Abalde-Amoedo, N. (2017). Level of physical activity and academic performance. International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, 23(3), 53-65.
Reynolds, K. C., Boergers, J., Kopel, S. J., & Koinis-Mitchell, D. (2018). Featured article: Multiple comorbid conditions, sleep quality and duration, and academic performance in urban children with asthma. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 43(9), 943-954.