New Study Proves Physically Fit Kids Perform Better Academically

NASPE (National Association for Sport And Physical Education) commends the California Department of Education (CDE) for its study (released on December 10, 2002) that shows a distinct relationship between academic achievement and physical fitness of California's public school students.

The research study matched scores from the spring 2001 administration of the Stanford Achievement Test given as part of California's Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, with results of the state-mandated physical fitness test, known as the Fitnessgram, given in 2001 to students in grades five, seven, and nine.  The Fitnessgram, developed by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, assesses six major health-related areas of physical fitness including aerobic capacity (cardiovascular endurance), body composition (percentage of body fat), abdominal strength and endurance, trunk strength and flexibility, upper body strength and endurance, and overall flexibility.  A score of 6 indicates that a student is in the healthy fitness zone in all six performance areas, and meets standards to be considered physically fit.

In the study, reading and mathematics scores were matched with fitness scores of 353,000 fifth graders, 322,000 seventh graders, and 279,000 ninth graders.  The bar graphs for each grade level show a significant relationship between the two types of scores that were matched.

Key findings of the study are:

bulletHigher achievement was associated with higher levels of fitness at each of the three grade levels measured.
bulletThe relationship between academic achievement and fitness was greater in mathematics than in reading, particularly at higher fitness levels.
bulletStudents who met minimum fitness levels in three or more physical fitness areas showed the greatest gains in academic achievement at all three grade levels.
bulletFemales demonstrated higher achievement than males, particularly at higher fitness levels.

This statewide study provides compelling evidence that the physical well-being of students has a direct impact on their ability to achieve academically.  We now have the proof we've been looking for: students achieve best when they are physically fit. 

Thousands of years ago, the Greeks ("Kalos kai aghatos") and the Latins  ("Mens sana in corpore sano") understood the importance of improving spirit, mind, and body.  The research presented here validates their philosophic approach with scientific data.