If you’re offering your services to local schools, here’s a new argument to add to the PowerPoint presentation. University of Illinois researchers have found “a strong relationship between academic achievement and fitness scores.”

The investigators examined the relationship between physical fitness and cognitive function (attention and working memory) among groups of fit and sedentary children and fit and sedentary adults. Among other things, the researchers used a “visual oddball” task to observe and record subjects’ abilities to recognize, respond to and discriminate between different visual stimuli. In that task, subjects were presented with two stimuli: a cartoon drawing of a dog and another one of a cat. Both appeared with different probabilities, and one was presented more frequently than the other.

When the researchers measured brain activation, they “found that fit children allocated more resources towards identifying stimuli, and also processed stimuli faster,” said University of Illinois kinesiology professor Charles Hillman in a press release. “Behaviorally, these effects showed up in that these fit children made fewer errors than sedentary ones. In terms of response speed, the fit children were still slower than fit and sedentary adults, but were faster than sedentary children.”

For more facts and figures regarding the effect of physical activity on academics, tune into the special section on kids’ fitness in our March issue.