Fitter kids do better in school, study says

Being physically fit won't only help your children stay healthier and more active -- a new US study finds it could help them turn out better grades in school.

Researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, looked at academic performance and how it relates to physical fitness, including body fat, muscular strength, flexibility, and endurance.

"We looked at the full range of what's called health-related fitness," says lead researcher Dawn Coe. "Kids aren't really fit if they're doing well in just one of those categories.

Coe and her team gathered data from 312 students in sixth through eighth grades, around 11 to 14 years old. They measured their fitness levels via a program of pushups, shuttle runs, and other drills and then compared them to their academic performance. Findings revealed that the fittest kids got the highest test scores and grades, regardless of gender or onset of puberty.

"Fit kids are more likely to be fit adults," adds co-author James Pivarnik. "And now we see that fitness is tied to academic achievement." He adds: "So hopefully the fitness and the success will both continue together."

Results were published December 6 in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

A prior US study from 2009 also found a link between fitness and academics: fit kids scored better on standardized math and English tests than their less fit peers. That study appeared in the Journal of School Health.

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