Strong Hearts and Lungs in Children Good for Better Grades
According to new findings presented at the American Psychological Association Annual Convention, "having a sound heart and lungs is a crucial factor especially for the middle school students in order to make good grades in math and reading. Physical fitness leads to score higher on standardized tests.
According to the study co-author Trent A. Petrie, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas, "Cardio respiratory fitness was the only factor that we consistently found to have an impact on both boys and girls grades on reading and math tests. This provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students' involvement in physical education classes."
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To conduct the study, the researchers gathered data at five Texas middle schools from 1211 students with 561 boys and 650 girls. About 57 percent of the children were white, and nearly one-quarter were Mexican American. Nine percent were black and about 2 percent were of Asian descent. The researchers also took into consideration children's race, age, grade level and whether they qualified for the free school lunch program, which was an indicator of the family's socioeconomic status. The schools also provided scores to the tests, which were given between one and four months after the researchers had assessed the children's levels of fitness.
According to Petrie, previous studies did showed links between being physically fit and improved academic performance. But study examines several other potential influences that include self esteem and social support.
The study found that the cardio respiratory fitness, social support was related to better reading scores among the boys. Whereas for girls having larger BMI was the only factor other than cardio respiratory fitness that predicted better reading scores. For boys and girls, cardio respiratory fitness was the only factor related to their performance on the math tests.
"The finding that a larger body mass index for girls was related to better performance on the reading exam may seem counterintuitive, however, past studies have found being overweight was not as important for understanding boys and girls performances on tests as was their level of physical fitness," Petrie said.
During the five month duration, students had taken up standardized reading and math tests, and answered questions about their level of physical activity, and how they viewed their academic ability, self-esteem and social support. The researchers also coordinated with the physical education teacher to administer a fitness assessment program that is widely used in U.S. The assessment provides an objective measure of cardio respiratory fitness through the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run, or PACER, and body composition through measuring BMI, the study said.
Petrie concluded saying, "Because this is a longitudinal study, these variables can now be considered risk factors in relation to middle school students' performance on math and reading examinations. And that is essential to developing effective programs to support academic success."