One key to better grades in the classroom may lie in the gym
or on the playground, a new study finds.
The research, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, found that
elementary and middle school students who don't get enough exercise are more
likely to fail math and reading tests.
Although the study didn't prove a cause-and-effect
relationship, the findings may be especially important in light of the fact
that some school districts in the United States have cut physical education
classes in order to devote more time to the "3 Rs" (reading, writing
and arithmetic), the researchers said.
Physical exercise in
"Schools sacrificing physical education and physical
activity time in search of more seat time for math and reading instruction
could potentially be pursuing a counterproductive approach," study lead
researcher Dr Robert Rauner of Creighton University and Lincoln Public Schools
in Lincoln, Neb, said in a journal news release.
In the study, Rauner's team compared fitness levels and test
scores among students in elementary and middle schools in Lincoln and found
that aerobically fit students were 2.4 times more likely to pass math tests and
more than twice as likely to pass reading tests than those who were not
Experts say BMI
important for health
The researchers also found that body-mass index (a
measurement of body fat based on height and weight) was an important indicator
for overall general health, but did not have a significant effect on test
scores, according to the study.
So although obesity is a major concern for kids' health, the
findings suggest that aerobic fitness may have an even greater effect on school
performance than weight, the researchers said.
They also found that both aerobic fitness and family income
have a similar impact on children's school performance. Since students' aerobic
fitness can be easier to improve than household income, schools should think
carefully before they reduce the time given to physical education classes and
recess, the researchers suggested.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
about children and physical activity.