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The Link between Physical Fitness & Academic Performance in Children

learning

The general argument has always been that a child that is more socially involved and physically active will have better academic performance. Some scholarly papers have shamed schools for cutting physical fitness programs during budget restraints, making the claims that physical activity promotes better analytical skills. There are many studies today that do show promising relationships with children’s activity time and academia.

A New York Times article from September 2013 stated that, based on a study done at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, active children pay more attention at home and school. The university tested 4th and 5th grade children to solidify their claim. The children were divided amongst those who engaged in playtime and those that did not before a math test. The children who played before the math test performed better.

Additionally, the study found that children who are slightly overweight, but variably fit, performed very well on the test. The article continues to state that, from previous studies, children who are physically fit out perform their peers on memory tests by nearly 40%. The more difficult a topic is for a child to retain, the more physical activity may help with their performance. The University of Illinois and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology suggest an hour of physical activity for school-aged children before a test to encourage better academic scores.

A major study of nearly 885,000 of middle school students and freshman high school students was conducted in California and published in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Exercise Physiology. The study also measured the congruence of physical fitness and academia. The study explored more micro-leveled factors such as the children’s BMI, aerobic capacity, the types of physical activity performance and others. In conclusion, the study found that female children, after taking up physical activity before a test, slightly outperformed their male counterparts.

Additionally, the study found that children from higher income socioeconomic communities performed better academically and tend to perform better during physical activity as well.

The Nickelodeon network television station has a great campaign called “Worldwide Day of Play”, that encourages children to simply go outside and play by not playing any programs for several hours for one day in October every year. Celebrities like Keke Palmer, Jennette McCurdy and Michelle Obama have all helped to promote the movement. School systems, teachers and parents would do well to promote physical activity in children, too.

The official website of Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a non-profit group promoting safe walking and biking routes to school for U.S. children, channeled the findings of the previous two studies.

A research article on the organization’s website states that physical activity promotes cognitive, social and motor skills in children. This may promote a child’s desire to be around like-minded children, thus making better decisions in different social settings.

Ultimately physical activity helps to promote a healthy competitive mind-set in kids. The correlation to physical activity and better overall performance in many other areas is strongly supported by several studies that have been conducted.