Fit Kids Scoring on Academics

August 26, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

In a study that alters my perception of my childhood, researchers say it seems that physically fit students students post higher academic scores than less-fit peers. Put another way, it's no longer the geek who shall inherit the earth. According to the study:

To examine the correlation between physical fitness and academic performance, researchers reviewed the academic and fitness records of students attending kindergarten through eighth grade in New York City public school who participated in the New York City FITNESSGRAM, a standards-based fitness curriculum and assessment. The researchers found that scores on standardized English language arts and math tests increased accordingly with higher FITNESSGRAM assessment scores for all racial and ethnic groups.

One of the problems that we see in schools is that the current focus on testing has reduced time and resources devoted to non-core school programming. So many important elements of a healthful school environment are cut — including PE, nutrition programs, maintenance — and the list goes on.

While it's helpful to have more and more research showing that better health means better education, what would be even more helpful is to start directing resources to expand health promotion programs.We know that healthy kids are better learners. Now it's time to start putting that knowledge into practice.

Maybe what we need is a new learning index that goes beyond just math and English and also includes physical education, nutrition, even the quality of the school building. By looking at developing the whole child, maybe we can then take steps to really improve our academic outcomes.