Physical Fitness Leads To Better Mental Fitness At School

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Let´s Move! That´s the campaign Michelle Obama, First Lady of the US, is pushing for. As the mother of two daughters, she also ensures that they take part in exercise and healthy eating. She may be onto something. A new study from Michigan State University (MSU) found that middle school students who are fit perform better on standardized tests and have higher scores on report cards than their classmates who are less active.

The study´s results, featured in a recent edition of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, highlight the connection between children´s fitness and better grades. The researchers believe that it is the first study to observe the relationship between academic performance and various factors of physical fitness, including body fat, endurance, flexibility, and muscular strength.

“We looked at the full range of what´s called health-related fitness,” explained the study´s lead researcher Dawn Coe, who completed the research as a doctoral student in MSU´s Department of Kinesiology and is currently working as an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in a prepared statement. “Kids aren´t really fit if they´re doing well in just one of those categories.”

The researchers looked at data from 312 students who were students at West Michigan School. Ranging between sixth and eighth grade, the students were examined for their physical fitness with a program of various exercises including push-ups and shuttle runs. The results from the students´ physical fitness exams were then compared to students´ letter grades during the school in four core classes along with the scores on a standardized test.

Based on the findings, the team of investigators believe that children who were the fittest had the best academic achievement, scoring the highest on tests and receiving top grades; these scores were regardless of gender or if the students had gone through puberty. The scientists noted that, by cutting physical education and recess to provide more time on study for core subjects, administrators could hinder student success on standardized tests. Low scores on standardized scores may also impact a school´s funding and reputation.

“Look, your fitter kids are the ones who will do better on tests, so that would argue against cutting physical activity from the school day,” remarked the study´s advisor James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology at MSU, in the statement. “That´s the exciting thing, is if we can get people to listen and have some impact on public policy.”

As such, the team of investigators believes that it´s paramount for children to continue to have physical education in order to have continued success in the future.

“Fit kids are more likely to be fit adults,” concluded Pivarnik in the statement. “And now we see that fitness is tied to academic achievement. So hopefully the fitness and the success will both continue together.”

The research comes at a particularly interesting time as the rates of childhood obesity continue to skyrocket. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 12.5 million (17 percent) of children between two and 19 years of age are thought to be obese. Since 1980, the rate of obesity in adolescents has almost tripled.

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