Physical activities outside and learning

This data visualisation shows my physical activities outside throughout the week. Data was collected from Monday to Saturday, and each line represents 1 minute spent physically exercising outside (clearing snow, running, walking). The table on the right side shows the exact time I did it.

Key findings: most of the time outside was spent on Thursday and Saturday. It was more than 1:20h. Least time outside was on Tuesday with under 30min. Most of the times I went outside at 2 pm and 9 pm.

Many studies show that physical activity positively influences learning (Bueno et al., 2021, p.54). On the other hand, too much physical activity can also drain students’ energy (Yu et al., 2006, p.331). Therefore, further investigations are necessary. This data can be linked to educational achievements and analysed how physical exercises can influence it.

Another factor that I was trying to assess the importance of spending time outside for learning. However, personally, I have not felt any significant influence, neither I found the evidence in the literature.

However, my own data analysis has its own limitations. I have not recorded the intensity of my physical activities that can influence academic performance (Sember et al., 2020, p.1). It is a black box that was not taken into account (Tsai et al., 2020).


Bueno, M., Zambrin, L., Panchoni, C., Werneck, A., Fernandes, R., Serassuelo, H. et al. (2021). Association Between Device-Measured Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity and Academic Performance in Adolescents. Health Education & Behavior48, 54-62.

Sember, V., Jurak, G., KovaÄ, M., Morrison, S.A. & Starc, G. (2020) Children’s Physical Activity, Academic Performance, and Cognitive Functioning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Public Health, 14 Jul, NA, available: [accessed 31 Jan 2021].

Tsai, Y., Perrotta, C., & Gašević, D.. (2020). Empowering learners with personalised learning approaches? Agency, equity and transparency in the context of learning analytics. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 45(4), 554-567.

Yu, C. C. W, Chan, Scarlet, Cheng, Frances, Sung, R. Y. T, & Hau, Kit-Tai. (2006). Are physical activity and academic performance compatible? Academic achievement, conduct, physical activity and self-esteem of Hong Kong Chinese primary school children. Educational Studies, 32(4), 331-341.

6 replies on “Physical activities outside and learning”

Hi Vilius,
I suppose something you could take from this is that even if someone tells you something will help you study, it can be very challenging to find out if it is indeed the case; there are so many other factors. In the same way, students may be nudged into engaging with content or studying in a certain way, but neither we nor they actually *know* if it helps them (and there is bound to be some student for whom it isn’t useful advice).

Yes, that is right. I kind of had this preconceived belief that exercising should help to study. I don’t know where it came from. But more I collect data about myself, more I understand that it is not maybe a case. And I agree with you, I guess there are way more factors than just physical activity. For instance, if I was a basketball player and I spent 6-8 hours playing every day, I guess would be eager to learn every time I finish my training. However, nowadays, when I work 10 hours a day on average, it is a question if it helps me or I even feel more tired and less likely to study.

Excellent first visualisation here Vilius. I really like the simplicity of the marks, which clearly shows your distribution of work over the week. The brackets were a nice addition, which allow the viewer to quickly add up the totals.

You make some good links here to research about the relationships between physical activity and learning. I wondered how you might develop this towards making more links with your own ‘learning’ on this course – for example, how did your ‘least’ and ‘most’ active days relate to specific course activity? I think it would also be great to develop a visualisation like this towards showing more detail, such as ‘intensity’.

The value of being outdoors is also an interesting perspective here. We have quite a few colleagues at Moray House who do research in this area, although not necessarily in terms of quantifying the experience – you might find something useful here: – a useful general point here is that we can relate our visualisations to qualitative research and theoretical ideas as well in our reflections, not just other quantitative or data-driven research.

It would be useful to read more reflection on your design choices in future visualisations – why this colour, why this kind of mark? What do you think your choices about the design and arrangement convey to the viewer of your visualisation?

Thanks a lot for your tips! Regarding this: ‘What do you think your choices about the design and arrangement convey to the viewer of your visualisation?’. Should I answer it in my post? Or it is just what I should think about before I choose a design for my visualization?

I like your visualization, Vilius, because it is colourful and easy to read. Didn’t you think of comparing time you spent exercising vs time you spent learning, like training for the body and the brain?

I was also wondering whether you noticed that when exercising, your brain tends to think more of your learning? That’s the case with me at least.

Hi Iryna,

Thanks a lot for your feedback! Good ideas for further research! I will try to assess it in my future data analysis!

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