“Cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor that we consistently found to have an impact on both boys’ and girls’ grades on reading and math tests,” said study co-author Trent A. Petrie, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas. “This provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students’ involvement in physical education classes.”
The study included students from five Texas middle schools and included an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse group. Researchers gathered data for 1–5 months before students took annual standardized reading and math tests. Investigators not only examined physical fitness and body composition test results but also looked at other influences on academic performance, such as self-esteem, social support, economic status and self-reported ability.
Petrie said, “Because this is a longitudinal study, these variables [cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition] can now be considered risk factors in relation to middle school students’ performance on math and reading examinations. And that is essential to developing effective programs to support academic success.”
The research was presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention, held in Orlando, Florida, in August 2012.