Archives 1 - The Relationship between Physical Activity, Weight, and Academic Achievement
Back to Main Page
- Academic achievement based on the idea that health and physical fitness have an impact on the ability to achieve academically. Because of the recent pressures of No Child Left Behind, many schools have opted to limit the amount of time students spend in physical education classes and recess. With the increased percentages of students who suffer from diabetes and other health related risks, eliminating or reducing physical activity from the school day is not the answer.
- Data was collected from 90 students (46 males and 44 females) during the 2009-2010 school year by using the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test, STAR Reading Percentile scores, and Grade Point Averages (GPA`s). Through multiple regressions, the researcher did not find statistically significant relationships between physical fitness levels and STAR Reading Percentiles or between physical fitness levels and Grade Point Averages.
- When physical fitness levels were combined with STAR Reading percentile scores, a significant correlation was found between these two variables and Grade Point Averages. A significant correlation was found between physical fitness levels and mathematics. Lastly, another significant correlation was found between STAR, Grade Point Averages, and sit ups.
- With these varying results, the researcher decided to retain the following null hypotheses of this study: there will not be a significant relationship between physical fitness scores based on the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test and academic performance based on STAR Reading Percentile scores for fourth and fifth graders at the participating school, and there will not be a significant relationship between physical fitness scores based on the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test and academic performance based on Grade Point Averages for fourth and fifth graders at the participating school. This study does not prove causality; therefore, the results should be interpreted with caution.
Rodenroth, K. (2010). A Study of the Relationship between Physical Fitness and Academic Performance, Liberty University.
- The goal was to analyze the physical fitness, self-concept, attitudes toward physical education, and academic achievement of Turkish elementary school children by socioeconomic status.
- 198 (101 boys, 97 girls) students from Grades 7 and 8 completed the Children’s Attitude Inventory towards Physical Education, the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-concept Scale, and Eurofit Physical Fitness Test Battery.
- Significant differences were found between the groups of Low and High socioeconomic status (SES) in terms of physical fitness and academic achievement. While the Low SES group had higher mean scores on physical fitness, mean academic achievements of the High SES group were higher. Mean differences in height, self-concept, and children’s attitudes toward physical education by socioeconomic status were not statistically significant.
- Particular attention should be paid to physical fitness in children of high socioeconomic status and the academic achievement of children with low socioeconomic status.
Aktop A (2010). Socioeconomic status, physical fitness, self-concept, attitude toward physical education, and academic achievement of children. Perceptual and motor skills, 110 (2):531-546.
- This study examined the associations between indicators of health-related physical fitness (cardiovascular fitness and body mass index) and academic performance (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills).
- Partial correlations were generally stronger for cardiovascular fitness than body mass index and consistently stronger in the middle school grades. Mixed-model regression analyses revealed modest associations between fitness and academic achievement after controlling for potentially confounding variables.
- The effects of fitness on academic achievement were positive but small. A separate logistic regression analysis indicated that higher fitness rates increased the odds of schools achieving exemplary/recognized school status within the state. School fitness attainment is an indicator of higher performing schools. Direction of causality cannot be inferred due to the cross-sectional nature of the data.
Welk GJ, Jackson AW, Morrow JR Jr, Haskell WH, Meredith MD, & Cooper KH (2010). The association of health-related fitness with indicators of academic performance in Texas schools. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 81 (3 Suppl):S16-23.
- This is a study of the effects of a school-based obesity prevention interventions that included dietary, curricula, and physical activity components on body mass index (BMI) percentiles and academic performance among low-income elementary school children.
- The study had a quasi-experimental design (4 intervention schools and 1 control school; 4588 schoolchildren; 48% Hispanic). Data are presented for the subset of the cohort who qualified for free or reduced-price school lunches (68% Hispanic; n=1197).
- Health findings:
- Significantly more intervention than control children stayed within normal BMI percentile ranges both years.
- Although not significantly so, more obese children in the intervention (4.4%) than in the control (2.5%) decreased their BMI percentiles.
- Academic findings:
- Intervention schoolchildren had significantly higher math scores both years.
- Hispanic and White intervention schoolchildren were significantly more likely to have higher math scores.
- Although not significantly so, intervention schoolchildren had higher reading scores both years.
- School-based interventions can improve health and academic performance among low-income schoolchildren.
Hollar, Danielle, Messiah, Sarah E., Lopez-Mitnik, Gabriela, Hollar, T. Lucas, Almon, Marie, Agatston, Arthur S. “Effect of a Two-Year Obesity Prevention Intervention on Percentile Changes in Body Mass Index and Academic Performance in Low-Income Elementary School Children.” American Journal of Public Health. 100.4 (2010):646-653.
- This is is a study of how successfully addressing childhood onset obesity requires multilevel (individual, community, and governmental), multi-agency collaboration.
- The Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren (HOPS)/OrganWise Guys (OWG) quasi-experimental controlled pilot study (four intervention schools, one control school, total N=3,769; 50.2% Hispanic) was an elementary school-based obesity prevention intervention designed to keep children at a normal, healthy weight, and improve health status and academic achievement. The HOPS/OWG included the following replicable, holistic components: (1) modified dietary offerings, (2) nutrition/lifestyle educational curricula; (3) physical activity component; and (4) wellness projects. Demographic, anthropometric (body mass index [BMI]), blood pressure, and academic data were collected during the two-year study period (2004-6).
- Statistically significant improvements in BMI, blood pressure, and academic scores, among low-income Hispanic and White children in particular, were seen in the intervention versus controls.
- Holistic school-based obesity prevention interventions can improve health outcomes and academic performance, in particular among high-risk populations.
Hollar, D, Lombardo, M, Lopez-Mitnik, G, Hollar, TL, Almon, M, Agatston, AS, Messiah, SE. “Effective multi-level, multi-sector, school-based obesity prevention programming improves weight, blood pressure, and academic performance, especially among low-income, minority children.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. 21.Suppl2 (2010):93-108.
- Previous studies have found that higher physical activity levels are associated with greater academic achievement among students. However, it remains unclear whether associations are due to the physical activity itself or sports team participation, which may involve requirements for maintaining certain grades, for example.
- This study examines the associations between sports team participation, physical activity, and academic outcomes in middle and high school students.
- Data were drawn from Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), a survey of 4746 middle and high school students. Students self-reported their weekly hours of physical activity, sports team participation, and academic letter grades.
- For high school girls, both physical activity and sports team participation were each independently associated with a higher GPA. For high school boys, only sports team participation was independently associated with a higher GPA. For middle school students, the positive association between physical activity and GPA could not be separated from the relationship between sports team participation and a higher GPA.
- Regardless of whether academic success was related to the physical activity itself or to participation on sports teams, findings indicated positive associations between physical activity involvement and academic achievement among students.
Fox, Claudia K., Barr-Anderson, Daheia, Neumark-Sztainer, Dianne, Wall, Melanie. “Physical Activity and Sports Team Participation: Associations With Academic Outcomes in Middle School and High School Students.” Journal of School Health. 80.1 (2010):31-37.
- This study examines the impact of integrating physical activity with elementary curricula on fluid intelligence and academic achievement.
- A random sample of 3rd grade teachers integrated physical activity into their core curricula approximately 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week from January 2008 to April 2008. Noninvasive fluid intelligence cognitive measures were used along with State-mandated academic achievement tests.
- Experimental Group children averaged close to 1200 pedometer steps per integration day, thus averaging 3600 steps per week.
- Children in the Experimental Group performed significantly better on the SPM Fluid Intelligence Test. Children in the Experimental Group also performed significantly better on the Social Studies State mandated academic achievement test. Experimental Group children also received higher scores on the English/Language Arts, Math and Science achievements tests, but were not statistically significant compared with Control Group children. Children classified in Fitnessgram’s Healthy Fitness Zone for BMI earned lower scores on many of the SPM Fluid Intelligence components.
- This study provides evidence that movement can influence fluid intelligence and should be considered to promote cognitive development of elementary-age children. Equally compelling were the differences in SPM Fluid Intelligence Test scores for children who were distinguished by Fitnessgram’s BMI cut points.
Reed, JA, Einstein, G; Hahn, E, Hooker, SP, Gross, VP, Kravitz, J. “Examining the impact of integrating physical activity on fluid intelligence and academic performance in an elementary school setting: a preliminary investigation.” Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 7.3 (2010):343-51.
- Physical activity (PA) has been hypothesized to spare gray matter volume in late adulthood, but longitudinal data testing an association has been lacking.
- This study tested whether PA would be associated with greater gray matter volume after a 9-year follow-up, a threshold could be identified for the amount of walking necessary to spare gray matter volume, and greater gray matter volume associated with PA would be associated with a reduced risk for cognitive impairment 13 years after the PA evaluation.
- In 299 adults (mean age 78 years) from the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study, researchers examined the association between gray matter volume, PA, and cognitive impairment. Physical activity was quantified as the number of blocks walked over 1 week.
- High-resolution brain scans were acquired 9 years after the PA assessment on cognitively normal adults. White matter hyperintensities, ventricular grade, and other health variables at baseline were used as covariates.
- Walking amounts ranged from 0 to 300 blocks (mean 56.3; SD 69.7). Greater PA predicted greater volumes of frontal, occipital, entorhinal, and hippocampal regions 9 years later. Walking 72 blocks was necessary to detect increased gray matter volume but walking more than 72 blocks did not spare additional volume. Greater gray matter volume with PA reduced the risk for cognitive impairment 2-fold.
- Greater amounts of walking are associated with greater gray matter volume, which is in turn associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.
Erickson, KI, Raji, CA, Lopez, OL, Becker, JT, Rosano, C, Newman, AB, Gach HM, Thompson, PM, Ho, AJ and Kuller, LH. “Physical Activity Predicts Gray Matter Volume in Late Adulthood: the Cardiovascular Health Study.” Neurology. 75.16 (2010): 1415-1422.
- This cross-sectional study examined the associations between active commuting to school and cognitive performance in adolescents in 5 cities in Spain.
- Active commuting to school was associated with better cognitive performance in girls, but not in boys. Additionally, girls who spent more than 15 minutes actively commuting to school had better scores in 3 of the 4 cognitive performance valuables than those who spent less time actively commuting to school as well as better scores in all of the cognitive performance variables.
- Authors suggest that active commuting to school and its duration may positively increase cognitive performance in adolescent girls.
Martinez-Gomez, David MSc, Ruiz, Jonathan R. PhD., Gomez-Martinez, Sonia PhD, Chillon, Palma PhD, et al,. “Active Commuting to School and Cognitive Performance in Adolescents.” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Published online December 6, 2010.
- This study is the first to explore the association between childhood aerobic fitness and basal ganglia structure and function.
- In children, higher aerobic fitness levels are associated with greater hippocampal volumes, superior performance on tasks of attentional and interference control, and elevated event-related brain potential indices of executive function.
- The present study used magnetic resonance imaging to investigate if higher-fit and lower-fit 9- and 10-year-old children exhibited differential volumes of other subcortical brain regions, specifically the basal ganglia involved in attentional control.
- The results indicated that higher-fit children showed superior flanker task performance compared to lower-fit children. Higher-fit children also showed greater volumes of the dorsal striatum, and dorsal striatum volume was negatively associated with behavioral interference.
- The results support the claim that the dorsal striatum is involved in cognitive control and response resolution and that these cognitive processes vary as a function of aerobic fitness.
- The findings suggest that increased childhood aerobic fitness is associated with greater dorsal striatal volumes and that this is related to enhanced cognitive control.
- Because children are becoming increasingly overweight, unhealthy and unfit, understanding the neurocognitive benefits of an active lifestyle during childhood has important public health and educational implications.
Chaddock L, Erickson KI, Prakash RS, VanPatter M, Voss MW, Pontifex MB, Raine LB, Hillman CH, and Kramer AF. “Basal Ganglia Volume is Associated with Aerobic Fitness in Preadolescent Children.” Developmental Neuroscience. 32.3 (2010): 249-256.
- This study examines whether childhood obesity affects student achievement and whether these effects differ by family income level.
- Although childhood obesity is a national concern, the issue is even more urgent in West Virginia where obesity rates for fifth graders are near 30 percent.
- Using a 2003-2007 panel of school district data, the authors find evidence that obesity negatively affects reading proficiency in high poverty districts, but obesity rates have little effect in lower poverty districts.
- The authors estimate that it would require a substantial increase in instructional education spending to offset the obesity effects on academic achievement in high poverty districts.
Gurley-Calvez, Tami and Higginbotham, Amy. “Childhood Obesity, Academic Achievement, and School Expenditures.” Public Finance Review. 38.5 (2010): 619-646.
- Student physical activity may help improve academic performance including academic achievement (e.g., grades, standardized test scores); academic behavior (e.g., on-task behavior, attendance); and factors that can positively influence academic achievement (e.g. concentration, attention, improved classroom behavior).
- This report is a literature review that examines the existing research on the relationship between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. It spans 23 years of research and includes 50 studies.
- The majority of the studies in this review report that physical activity was positively related to academic performance.
- Adding time during the school day for physical activity does not appear to take away from academic performance.
- Schools should continue to offer and/or increase opportunities for student physical activity.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Association between School-based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.
- The aim of this study is to explore the associations between objectively assessed intensity levels of physical activity and academic achievement and test whether cardiovascular fitness mediates the association between physical activity and academic achievement.
- Cross-sectional data were gathered in Swedish 9th-grade students (n = 232; mean age = 16 years; 52% girls). School grades, pubertal phase, skinfold thickness, cardiovascular fitness, and physical activity were measured objectively. Mother’s education, family structure, and parental monitoring were self-reported. Data were analyzed with linear regression analyses.
- After controlling for confounding factors, academic achievement was associated with vigorous physical activity in girls (beta = .30, P < .01; explained variance of the model 26%), which remained after inclusion of fitness (beta = .23, P < .05; explained variance 29%). The association was not mediated by fitness. In boys, academic achievement was associated with pubertal phase (beta = .25, P < .05). After inclusion of fitness, it was only associated with fitness (beta = .25, P < .05; explained variance of the model 30%).
- In girls, academic achievement was associated with vigorous physical activity and not mediated by fitness, whereas in boys only fitness was associated with academic achievement. Further studies are necessary to investigate the potential longitudinal effect of vigorous physical activity on academic achievement, the role of fitness herein and the implications of these findings for schools.
Kwak L, Kremers SP, Bergman P, Ruiz JR, Rizzo NS, & Sjöström M (2009). Associations between physical activity, fitness, and academic achievement. The Journal of Pediatrics, 155 (6), 914-918.
- Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC) was a three-year cluster randomized controlled trial to promote physical activity and diminish increases in overweight and obesity in elementary school children.
- PAAC promoted 90 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous intensity physically active academic lessons delivered by classroom teachers.
- Results indicated that the PAAC approach may promote daily physical activity and academic achievement in elementary school children.
- 75 minutes of PAAC curriculum activities may attenuate increases in body mass index.
Donnelly, Joseph E., Greene, Jerry L., Gibson, Cheryl A., Smith, Bryan K., Washburn, Richard A., Sullivan, Debra K., DuBose, Katrina, Mayo, Matthew S., Schmelzle, Kristin H., Ryan, Joseph J., Jacobsen, Dennis J. and Williams, Shannon L. “Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC): A randomized controlled trial to promote physical activity and diminish overweight and obesity in elementary school children.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 49 (2009):336-341.
- Fitness, mathematics, and reading/language data were collected from 134 third-fifth-grade children.
- A negative association was noted between the 1-mile run and mathematics scores
- A positive relationship was observed between muscular fitness and mathematics
- This study supports a link between specific components of physical fitness and academic achievement in elementary school children.
Eveland-Sayers, Brandi M., Farley, Richard S., Fuller, Dana K., Morgan, Don W., and Caputo, Jennifer L. “Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Elementary School Children.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 66 (2009):99-104
- This study assesses the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement in diverse, urban public school children.
- Results show statistically significant relationships between fitness and academic achievement, though the direction of causation is not known.
Chomitz, Virginia R., Slining, Meghan M., McGowan, Robert T., Mitchell, Suzanne E., Dawson, Glen F. and Hacker, Karen A. “Is There a Relationship Between Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement? Positive Results From Public School Children in Northeastern United States.” Journal of School Health. 79 (2009):30-37.
- This study investigates the relationship between scholastic achievement and weight status among 6th and 7th grade students.
- Grade point average, nationally standardized reading scores, school detentions, school suspensions, school attendance, tardiness to school, physical fitness scores, and participation on school athletic teams were compared among nonoverweight, at risk for overweight, and overweight students.
- GPA’s of nonoverweight students were ~ 11% higher than those of the overweight students.
- Overweight students were five times more likely to have 6 or more detentions then nonoverweight students.
- Nonoverweight students had 25% fewer absences and 39% fewer days tardy to school relative to overweight students.
- This study suggests that body mass index is an important indicator of scholastic achievement, attendance, behavior, and physical fitness among middle school students, reiterating the need for healthy lifestyle intervention and prevention measures.
Shore, Stuart M., Sachs, Michael L., Lidicker, Jeffrey R., Brett, Stephanie N., Wright, Adam R. and Libonati, Joseph R. “Decreased Scholastic Achievement in Overweight Middle School Students.” Obesity. 16 (2008): 1535-1538.
- This study compares the classroom behavior of children 8 to 9 years of age receiving daily recess with that of children not receiving daily recess.
- Results report that children exposed to non/minimal break (30%) were much more likely to be black, from families with lower incomes and lower levels of education, live in large cities, and attend public school, compared with children with recess.
- Having one or more daily recess period of greater then15 minutes is associated with better teacher reported classroom behavior.
Barros, Romina M., Silver, Ellen J. and Stein, Ruth E. K. “School Recess and Group Classroom Behavior.” Pediatrics. 123.2 (2009): 431-436.
- Results suggest that, in general, children who are overweight or obese have achievement test scores that are about the same as children with average weight.
- More research examining the relationship between weight and educational achievement is needed.
Kaestner, Robert and Grossman, Michael. “Effects of Weight on Children’s Educational Achievement.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 13764. January, 2008.
- This study examines the associations between academic performance, cognitive functioning, and increased BMI in a nationally representative sample of children.
- Results show increased body weight to be independently associated with decreased visuospatial organization and general mental ability among children.
Li,Yanfeng, Dai, Qi, Jackson, James C. and Zhang, Jian. “Overweight is AssociatedWith Decreased Cognitive Functioning Among School-age Children and Adolescents.” Obesity. 16.8 (2008): 1809–1815.
- This study reviews the literature that examines the effects of exercise on children’s intelligence, cognition, or academic achievement.
- Research suggests that gains in children’s mental functioning due to exercise are seen most clearly on tasks that involve executive functions (performing goal-directed actions in complex stimulus environments).
- Exercise is an important method of developing mental functioning that is central to both cognitive and social development.
Tomporowski, Phillip D., Davis, Catherine L., Miller, Patricia H. and Naglieri, Jack A. “Exercise and Children’s Intelligence, Cognition, and Academic Achievement.” Educational Psychology Review. 20.2 (2008): 111-131.
- Data analyzed in this study indicate that additional curricular emphasis on physical education may result in small absolute gains in grade point average and strongly suggest a relative increase in performance per unit of academic teaching time.
- Observations show a positive association between academic performance and physical activity.
- Physical activity has a positive influence on concentration, memory, and classroom behavior.
Trudeau, Francois and Shephard, Roy J. “Physical Education, School Physical Activity, School Sports, and Academic Performance.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 5.10 (2008).
- This study examines the relationship between relative weight and school attendance among 1,069 fourth to sixth graders from nine elementary schools in the inner city of Philadelphia, PA.
- Linear regression showed that the obese category remained a significant contributor to the number of days absent even after adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, and gender.
- Data suggest that heavier children have greater risk for school absenteeism than their normal-weight peers. As the rate of childhood obesity increases, parallel increases in school absenteeism should be expected.
Geier, Andrew B., Foster, Gary, Womble, Leslie G., McLaughlin, Jackie, Borradile, Kelly E., Nachmani, Joan, Sherman, Sandy, Kumanyika, Shiriki and Shults, Justine. “The Relationship Between Relative Weight and School Attendance Among Elementary Schoolchildren.” Obesity. 15 (2007): 2157-2161.
- This study examines the link between childhood overweight status and school outcomes (academic achievement, teacher reported internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, social skills, approaches to learning, school absences, and grade repetition) between kindergarten entry and end of the third grade.
- Moving from not-overweight to overweight between kindergarten entry and end of third grade was significantly associated with reductions in test scores, and teacher ratings of social-behavioral outcomes and learning among girls.
- Boys who became overweight had significantly fewer externalizing behavioral problems, but more absences from school compared to boys who remained normal weight.
- Implications of this study suggest a change in overweigh status during the first 4 years in school is a significant risk factor for adverse school outcomes among girls, but not boys.
Datar, Ashlesha. and Sturm, Roland. “Childhood Overweight and Elementary School Outcomes.” International Journal of Obesity. 30 (2006):1449-1460.
- This article reviews research on the association between physical activity among school-aged children and academic outcomes.
- Literature suggests that there may be short-term improvements, but long-term improvements of academic achievement as a result of physical activity are not well substantiated.
- The relationship between academic achievement and physical activity requires further research.
Tara, Howard. “Physical Activity and Student Performance at School.” Journal of School Health. 75.6 (2005): 214-218.
- This research study examines the social, educational, and psychological correlates of weight status in an adolescent population of 4,742 male and 5,201 female public school students in the 7th, 9th, and 11th grades.
- Results among obese boys reveal:
- 21.8% report being held back or having to repeat a grade
- 33% expect not to finish college
- Results among obese girls reveal:
- 16.3% report being held back or having to repeat a grade
- 12% consider themselves below average students
- 35% expect not to finish college
- This study reports associations between weight status and social relationships, school experiences, psychological well-being, and some future aspirations.
Faulkner, Nicole H., Neumark-Sztainer, Dianne, Story, Mary, Jeffery W., Robert, Beuhring, Trish and Resnick, Michael D. “Social, Educational, and Psychological Correlates of Weight Status in Adolescents.” Obesity Research. 9 (2001):32-42.
- This article reviews research about involvement in a regular physical activity program and academic performance with a focus on associated changes of cognitive or psychomotor function.
- Available data suggest that the rate of academic learning per unit of class time is enhanced in physically active students.
- Findings also emphasize the importance of developing positive health habits at an early stage in a child’s development.
Shephard, Roy J. “Curricular Physical Activity and Academic Performance.” Pediatric Exercise Science. 9 (1997):113-126.
Back to Main Page