Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Elementary School Children

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

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.

Methods:

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 Terra-Nova achievement test was taken as a measure of academic achievement.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

Results from this study support a link between specific components of physical fitness and academic achievement in elementary school children.

Eveland-Sayers, Farley, Morgan, and Caputo are with the Dept of Health and Human Performance, and Fuller the Dept of Psychology, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132.