The objective of this study was to examine the association of scholastic performance with physical activity and fitness of children. To do so, school ratings of scholastic ability on a five-point scale for a nationally representative sample of 7,961 Australian schoolchildren aged 7–15 years were compared with physical activity and fitness measurements. Consistently across age and sex groups, the ratings were significantly correlated with questionnaire measures of physical activity and with performance on the 1.6-kilometer run, sit-ups and push-ups challenges, 50-meter sprint, and standing long jump. There were no significant associations for physical work capacity at a heart rate of 170 (PWC170). The results are concordant with the hypothesis that physical activity enhances academic performance, but the cross-sectional nature of the observations limits causal inference, and the disparity for PWC170 gives reason to question whether the associations were due to measurement bias or residual confounding.
Terence Dwyer, Leigh Blizzard, and Kimberlie Dean are with the Menzies Centre for Population Health Research at the University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia. James F. Sallis is with the School of Psychology at San Diego State University, San Diego, CA. Ross Lazarus is with Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.