Fitness and academic performance in adolescents. The mediating role of leptin: DADOS study


We tested the mediating effect of leptin on the association between physical fitness (PF) components and academic performance indicators in healthy adolescents. A total of 263 adolescents (13.9 ± 0.3 years, 47.5% girls, 12.5% overweight) from the DADOS (Deporte, ADOlescencia y Salud) Study were included in the analysis. PF components were assessed by the handgrip test for upper-limb muscular strength, standing long jump test for lower-limb muscular strength, 4 × 10-m shuttle run test for speed-agility, and 20-m shuttle run test for cardiorespiratory fitness. Plasma leptin concentration was assessed from antecubital vein blood after an overnight fast using a sensitive ELISA kit. Academic performance indicators were assessed through final school grades and through the Spanish version of the SRA Test of Educational Ability. Body composition was assessed by body mass index and skinfold thicknesses. Boot-strapped mediation procedures were performed and indirect effects with confidence intervals not including zero were interpreted as statistically significant. Our findings suggest that the positive associations observed between cardiorespiratory fitness and lower-limb muscular strength with academic performance indicators were mediated by leptin concentration after adjusting for sex, pubertal stage, socioeconomic status, and adiposity (percentage of mediation ranging from 54.61 to 82.02%). Conclusions: Improvements on PF components, particularly in cardiorespiratory fitness and lower-limb muscular strength, might reduce leptin concentration with potential benefits on academic performance in adolescents, independently of adiposity.

What is Known:
Academic performance is associated with physical fitness and leptin concentration in children and adolescents.
Fitness modulates leptin concentration levels, regardless of physical activity and adiposity.
What is New:
Leptin concentration mediates the association of cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength with academic performance in adolescents.
Improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength might reduce leptin concentration levels enhancing academic performance.

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Fig. 1



Cardiorespiratory fitness


Grade point average


Muscular strength


Physical fitness


Socioeconomic status


Shuttle run test


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The DADOS Study is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, MINECO (DEP2013-45515-R) and by the Jaume I University of Castellon, UJI (P1·1A2015-05). This work is partly supported by a Sunny Sport research grant from the Schweppes Suntory Spain Company. DJP was supported by a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation-MINECO (RYC-2014–16938). M.A.R is supported by a Predoctoral Research Grant from UJI (PREDOC/2015/13).

Author information




MAR was involved in the data collection and analysis, and drafting of the initial manuscript. MRBV was involved in the data collection and critical revision of the manuscript. DJP, JGPG, and OCB were involved in the critical revision of the manuscript. DMU was involved in the study design and data collection, manuscript preparation, and critical revision. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Diego Moliner-Urdiales.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Adolescents and their parents or guardians were informed of the nature and characteristics of the study, and all signed an informed written consent. The DADOS study protocol was designed in accordance with the ethical guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki 1961 (last revision of Fortaleza, Brazil, 2013) and approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the University Jaume I of Castellon (Spain).

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Communicated by Mario Bianchetti

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Adelantado-Renau, M., Jiménez-Pavón, D., Beltran-Valls, M.R. et al. Fitness and academic performance in adolescents. The mediating role of leptin: DADOS study. Eur J Pediatr 177, 1555–1563 (2018).

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  • Cognition
  • Health
  • School grades
  • Adolescence
  • Leptin