Physical fitness can improve academic performance

Harold Mandel's picture
Kids staying fit

For people who enjoy the natural high of getting exercise and staying fit it is no surprise that it appears being fit is associated with better academic performance. Of course it is important to include good nutrition in any fitness program. Sedentary lifestyles are associated with increased rates of both physical and emotional illnesses. Leading a healthy lifestyle with exercise as a vital component of that lifestyle is associated with improved well being in body and mind.

Researchers decided to examine the associations of the components of physical fitness with academic performance among young people reported The Journal of Pediatrics. There were a total of 2038 youths from 16-18 years old included in this study. A 20-m shuttle run test was used to measure cardiorespiratory capacity. A 4 × 10-m shuttle run test of speed of movement, agility, and coordination was used to assess motor ability. Handgrip strength and standing long jump distance were used to compute muscular strength. Academic performance was evaluated via school records using 4 indicators:

1: Mathematics

2: Language

3: An average of mathematics and language

4: Grade point average score


Cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability may have a beneficial influence on academic performance

The researchers observed that cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability were independently associated with all academic variables in young people. Muscular strength was not found to be associated with academic performance independent of the other 2 physical fitness components. Furthermore, the combined adverse effects of low cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability on academic performance were observed. It was concluded cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability, taken both independently and in combination, may have a beneficial influence on academic performance in young people.

Fitness has a positive impact on physical and mental health

Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence has been found to have a positive impact on both physical and mental health throughout life reports Elsevier Health Sciences. A growing body of evidence suggests that physical fitness may also play a vital role in brain health and academic performance.

Kids who were less fit had lower grades.

Irene Esteban-Cornejo, MSc, of the Autonomous University of Madrid, and associates found that cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability were associated with academic performance. However, they observed that the association of academic performance and physical fitness was stronger for motor ability than it was for cardiorespiratory capacity. What this means is that motor ability may be a more important factor for academic performance. In contrast to these findings it was observed that
children and adolescents who had both lower levels of cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability
had lower grades.

Esteban-Cornejo has said that having high levels of cardiorespiratory and motor fitness may actually lower the risk of school failure. This is very significant and helps support the premise that kids have a better chance of overall success if they are fit. It should therefore be kept in mind that academic development may very well meet with greater success when physical activities for children and adolescents which involve aerobic exercises and motor tasks are promoted. Clearly, kids have everything to gain and nothing to lose if they are encouraged to eat well and stay fit.