(ORLANDO, Fla.) — It’s August already and as summer vacation winds down toward the new school term, a new study reveals the link between good grades and good health. Students with healthy hearts and lungs fare better in math and reading, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention.
Researchers studied some 1,200 students from five Texas middle schools whose average age was 12. The participants were evaluated for cardio-vascular fitness, academic performance, self-esteem and social support.
The study authors found that the only consistent factor that had a positive effect on their grades was cardio-vascular fitness.
“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,” study co-author Trent A. Petrie, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas said in a statement. “This provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students’ involvement in physical education classes.”
The study also showed that students perform better in reading when family and friends provide reliable social support to help in problem solving and dealing with emotions. The results were not the same for math, however, where cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor related to positive performance.
Though the study does not show a clear causal relationship between fitness and academics (students who are motivated to be physically fit could actually just be students who possess academic motivation as well), the authors conclude that the relationship of physical fitness and academic performance is one that is independent of other factors, and schools should work to develop better fitness programs.
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