Physical Education and Academic Achievement in Elementary School: Data From the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, Mailstop K-46, Atlanta, GA 30345, USA.
American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.55). 05/2008; 98(4):721-7. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.117176
Source: PubMed


We examined the association between time spent in physical education and academic achievement in a longitudinal study of students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
We used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998 to 1999, which employed a multistage probability design to select a nationally representative sample of students in kindergarten (analytic sample = 5316). Time spent in physical education (minutes per week) was collected from classroom teachers, and academic achievement (mathematics and reading) was scored on an item response theory scale.
A small but significant benefit for academic achievement in mathematics and reading was observed for girls enrolled in higher amounts (70-300 minutes per week) of physical education (referent: 0-35 minutes per week). Higher amounts of physical education were not positively or negatively associated with academic achievement among boys.
Among girls, higher amounts of physical education may be associated with an academic benefit. Physical education did not appear to negatively affect academic achievement in elementary school students. Concerns about adverse effects on achievement may not be legitimate reasons to limit physical education programs.

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    • "Not all research supports the contention that there is a strong relationship between physical activity and academic performance. For instance, Reference[20]reported that there were positive social effects from being involved in physical education, but no evidence of any benefit to academic performance. As a consequence, they concluded that physical education was not a significant factor for parents in their choice of school. "

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    • "The studies of Carlson et al. (2008), Dexter (1999) and Tremarche et al. (2007) examined relations between physical education and academic achievement and found positive outcomes. The study run by Heitzler (2006) with a substantial and representative sample, showed the children's beliefs on the benefits of participating in physical activity and the importance of parents' support. "
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    • "Research has shown that youths who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in many risk behaviors, including early sexual initiation, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, and violence and gang involvement. Students who feel connected to their school are also more likely to have better academic achievement, including higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and stay in school longer [12] [13]. Efforts to improve child and adolescent health have typically addressed specific health risk behaviours , such as tobacco use or violence. "
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