Newswise — As more and more studies indicate physical activity improves academic performance, a West Virginia University professor’s research is helping identify which types of exercise are effective.

Research by James C. Hannon, assistant dean of the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, suggests “resistance exercise,” e.g. weight lifting, using resistance bands etc., is effective in improving academic performance.

“This study is of particular importance because most investigations in school-aged youth populations have focused on aerobic exercise as the lone intervention,” Hannon said. “By investigating other exercise types we may be able to expand the range of activity forms that classroom or physical education teachers could use to aid in academic performance.”

The report examines the differences in learning between 30 minutes of various levels of exercise in comparison to non-exercise, with high school-aged students. The study, published in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, suggests that both acute resistance and aerobic exercise increased measures of learning compared to the non-exercise group of students.

“We are very excited that three follow-up studies, currently being prepared for publication, using different school age groups and tests of cognition have produced similar findings,” Hannon said.

The findings suggest the benefits of acute resistance exercise as an alternative or complement to aerobic activity for educators aiming to increase youth physical activity and cognitive function concurrently.

The study involved 94 participants who performed 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, resistance exercise or no exercise separated by seven days each in a randomized crossover design. After each exercise plan, the students’ learning levels were tested.

In addition to Hannon, the research team included Andrew T. Harveson, Timothy A. Brusseau, Leslie Podlog, Charilaos Papadopoulos, Lynne H. Durrant, Morgan S. Hall and Kyoung-doo Kang.