Presentation Abstract

Session: 08-Physical Activity/Fitness
Tuesday, Mar 02, 2010, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Presentation: P87 - Long-Term Physical Fitness Is Associated with Children's Academic Achievement
Location: Grand Ballroom A
Pres. Time: Tuesday, Mar 02, 2010, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Category: +NPAM - Physical Activity/Fitness
Keywords: Children; Physical activity
Author(s): Lesley A Cottrell, West Virginia Univ, Morgantown, WV; Richard Wittberg, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Dept, Parkersburg, WV; Karen Northrup, Wood County Schs, Parkersburg, WV
Abstract: Introduction: Children’s physical activity and overall physical fitness has been strongly associated with healthier physical, emotional, and social functioning. Research has also demonstrated an association between physical fitness and cognitive functioning (increased problem solving, attention span, and memory); yet much of this work is based on older adult samples.
With a need to explore the role of physical activity and fitness in children’s cognitive functioning, we previously examined a cohort (n=928) of elementary students who had received a body mass index percentile (BMIP), fitness report (FITNESSGRAM), and had taken standardized academic tests (WESTEST). Our previous findings revealed that after controlling for socioeconomic status, children’s fitness levels more strongly predicted their mean academic scores than their BMI percentiles.
Methods: This work has led us to examine a longitudinal cohort consisting of students (n = 725) enrolled in the fifth grade during our initial assessment and studied over a two-year period. We hypothesized that children who continued to be fit over time would have the highest mean average on standardized tests.
Results: Table 1 illustrates the mean scores on each achievement subtest based on whether the student was in a healthy fitness zone (HZ) or not in a healthy fitness zone (NIz) at each assessment period.
Assessment (Enrolled Grade)
Baseline
5th Grade
Final
7th Grade
ReadingMathScienceSocial Studies
HZHZ3.31ac3.51ad3.543.23a
HZNIz3.033.183.453.11
NIzHZ3.143.273.503.08
NIzNIz2.91ac3.00d3.372.94a

Conclusions: These findings reveal that children who are in the healthy zone (HZ) for aerobic fitness over time score the highest mean on all the academic subtests. Conversely, those who were not in the healthy fitness zone (NIz) at any assessment time obtained the lowest academic mean.
Implications: Collectively, this work supports an association between children’s physical fitness and their academic achievement. These findings have significant implications for the role of physical activity and physical education in the primary school system for potentially improving children’s academic performance.
Disclosures:  L.A. Cottrell, None; R. Wittberg, None; K. Northrup, None.