Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Elementary School Children

Department of Health and Human Performance, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132, USA.
Journal of physical activity & health (Impact Factor: 1.95). 01/2009; 6(1):99-104. DOI: 10.1249/01.mss.0000274573.54238.aa
Source: PubMed


The benefits of physical fitness are widely acknowledged and extend across many domains of wellness. The association between fitness and academic achievement, however, remains to be clarified, especially in young children. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between fitness and academic achievement in elementary school children.
Data were collected from 134 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade children. One-mile run time, body mass index, curl-up, and sit-and-reach data were collected from physical education instructors in Middle Tennessee. The percentage of questions answered correctly for the mathematics and reading/language arts sections of the TerraNova achievement test was taken as a measure of academic achievement.
A negative association (P<.01) was noted between 1-mile run times and mathematics scores (r=-.28), whereas a positive relationship (P<.05) was observed between muscular fitness and mathematics scores (r=.20). Relative to sex differences, inverse relationships (P<.05) were observed between 1-mile run times and reading/language arts and mathematics scores in girls (r=-.31 and -.36, respectively), but no significant associations were evident in boys.
Results from this study support a link between specific components of physical fitness and academic achievement in elementary school children.

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    • "Despite the fact that several studies have found relationships between cardiorespiratory fitness, weight status and academic performance [9,10,22,26], most of these studies did not take into consideration their dynamic changes over time in different cohorts, and the possible relationship between academic achievement and the combined association of cardiorespiratory fitness/weight status. These types of studies are important because they allow establishing a better outcome than studies with one cohort sample. "
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    • "Studies looking at math and reading with older children show that children who participate in more vigorous activity and those who are physically fit have higher math and reading scores (C. L. Davis et al., 2011; Eveland-Sayers et al., 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: The potential for physical activity and fitness to improve cognitive function, learning and academic achievement in children has received attention by researchers and policy makers. This paper reports a systematic approach to identification, analysis and review of published studies up to early 2009. A three-step search method was adopted to identify studies that used measures of physical activity or fitness to assess either degree of association with or effect on a) academic achievement and b) cognitive performance. A total of 18 studies including one randomised control trial, six quasi-experimental and 11 correlational studies were included for data extraction. No studies meeting criteria that examined the links between physical activity and cognitive function were found. Weak positive associations were found between both physical activity and fitness and academic achievement and fitness and elements of cognitive function, but this was not supported by intervention studies. There is insufficient evidence to conclude that additional physical education time increases academic achievement; however there is no evidence that it is detrimental. The quality and depth of the evidence base is limited. Further research with rigour beyond correlational studies is essential.
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