Research has demonstrated associations between differing modalities of physical activity (PA) and behavioral and learning outcomes; however, little evidence exists in real world settings. To evaluate the effects of embedding high intensity interval training (HITT) and resistance training (RT) into physical education (PE) curriculum on PA, academic performance, and behavior in youth attending urban schools. Forty boys and 30 girls; ages 8-10 yrs. enrolled in an expanded public school supplemental learning program were assigned into one of three conditions using a pragmatic trial design: standard PE curriculum (n = 23), HITT (n = 25), and RT (n = 22). PA was measured using accelerometers; math achievement scores were conducted at baseline and post-intervention using the Math Knowledge Assessment (MKA); behavior was assessed using the Abbreviated Conners Rating Scale (ACRS) daily. Participation in HITT resulted in 1.86 additional vigorous PA minutes (p=0.04) and 0.76 additional very vigorous PA minutes (P=0.02) per session, but was not associated with increased moderate PA minutes compared to the control group. RT PA outcomes did not differ from regular PE. Participating in HIIT, but not RT, was associated with a 1.82-point improvement in math test scores compared to those in the same grade in the standard PE group (p=0.02). No group assignment was associated with behavioral ratings. Embedding HITT within PE has potential for improving vigorous PA levels and may affect learning outcomes in urban youth. This is consistent with prior studies which show how short bouts of intense exercise can improve cognitive outcomes.


Physical Activity, Low-Income Communities, High Intensity Interval Training, Resistance Training, Health Promotion,


  1. D. Riebe, B. Franklin, P. Thompson, Updating ACSM's recommendations for exercise preparticipation health screening, Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 47(11) (2015) 2473-2479.
  2. D. Kibbe, J. Hackett, M. Hurley, A. MacFarland, K. Schubert, A, Schultz, S. Harris, Ten Years of TAKE 10!(®): Integrating physical activity with academic concepts in elementary school classrooms. Preventative Medicine, 52(1) (2011) 43-50.
  3. D. Castelli, C. Hillman, S. Buck, H. Erwin, Physical fitness and academic achievement in third- and fifth-grade students, Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 29(2) (2007) 239-252.
  4. S. Andermo, M. Hallgren, T. Nguyen, S. Jonsson, S. Petersen, M. Friberg, A. Romgvist, B. Stubbs, L. Elinder, School-related physical activity interventions and mental health among children: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Sports Medicine, 25(6) (2020) 1-27.
  5. S. Austin, K. Bauer, A. Patel, A. Prokup, Swimming upstream: faculty and staff members from urban middle school in low-income communities describe their experience implementing nutrition and physical activity initiatives, Preventing Chronic Disease, 3(2) (2006) 1-9.
  6. A. Faigenbaum, J. Bush, R. McLoone, M. Kreckel, A. Farrell, N. Ratamess, J. Kang, Benefits of strength and skill based training during primary school physical education, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(5) (2015) 1255-1262.
  7. S. Weihrauch-Blüher, S. Wiegand, Risk factors and implications of childhood obesity. Current Obesity Reports, 7(4) (2018) 254-259.
  8. S. Costigan, N. Eather, R. Plotnikoff, C. Hillman, D. Lubans, High-intensity interval training for cognitive and mental health in adolescents, Medicine and Sport in Sports Exercise, 48(10) (2016), 1985-1993.
  9. C. Basch, Healthier students are better learners: A missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap, Journal of School Health, 81(10) (2011) 593-598.
  10. K. Fiscella, H. Kitzman, Disparities in academic achievement and health: the intersection of child education and health policy, Pediatrics, 123(3) (2019) 1073-1080.
  11. A. García-Hermoso, R. Ramírez-Campillo, M, Izquierdo, Is muscular fitness associated with future health benefits in children and adolescents? A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies, Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(7) (2019) 1079-1094.
  12. CH. Wu, C. Karageorghis, CC Wang, CH. SC. Kao, TM. Hung, YK. Chang, Acute aerobic and resistance exercise on executive function: An ERP study, Journal of Science Medicine and Sport, 22(12) (2019) 367-372.
  13. United States Census Bureau [Internet]. Quick Facts, Lawrence City, Massachusetts. [Published July 1, 2019. Accessed May 1, 2021]. Available from: https://www.census.gov
  14. R. Ullmann, E. Sleator, R. Sprague, A change of mind: The conners' abbreviated rating scales reconsidered, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 13(1985), 553-565.
  15. P. Freedson, J. Sirard, E. Debold, Calibration of the computer science and applications, Inc.(CSA) accelerometer, Medicine Science Sports and Exercise, 30(5) (1998) 777–781.
  16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, (2017). Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs
  17. D. Ginsberg, The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds, Pediatrics, 119(1) (2007) 182–191.
  18. World Health Organization [Internet]. Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva, CH: World Health Organization; (2010) Available from: https://www.who.int/
  19. D. Lubans, J. Richards, C. Hillman, G. Faulkner, M. Beauchamp, M. Nilsson, P. Kelly, J. Smith, L. Raine, S. Biddle, Physical activity for cognitive and mental health in youth: a systematic review of mechanisms, Pediatrics, 38(3) (2016).
  20. J. Best, Effects of physical activity on children’s executive function: contributions of experimental research on aerobic exercise, Developmental Review, 30(4) (2010) 331–359.
  21. C. Hansen, L. Stevens, J. Coast, Exercise duration and mood state: how much is enough to feel better?, Journal of Health Psychology, 20(2001) 267–275.
  22. E. Anderson, J. Durstine, Physical activity, exercise, and chronic diseases: A brief review, Journal of Sport Health and Health Science, 1(2019) 3-10.