A new study from Spain provides more evidence that physical fitness in children is directly related to improved academic performance in school. Published in the Journal of Pediatrics last week, researchers looked at three factors of fitness: cardiorespiratory capacity (the efficiency of blood flow and oxygen utilization by an exercising body); motor ability (agility, coordination, quickness of movement); and muscle strength. Liza Baskin has the results:
After adjusting for fitness and fatness factors, the findings showed that cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability were associated, both alone and combined, with all measures of academic performance. Although, motor ability was a bigger influence on academic performance than cardiorespiratory capacity.
Muscle strength was not associated with academic performance independent of cardiorespiratory capacity and motor ability.
The benefits of physical fitness don’t just end at school. Being fit for a lifetime means better overall health and being able to enjoy more activities for longer as you get older. Being fit for a lifetime means fewer injuries and illnesses, faster recovery from injuries and illnesses, and better quality of life long into late adulthood.
Being fit for a lifetime begins early in childhood. There is no question that, in general, a healthy child’s activity level is directly proportional to his parents’ activity level. When parents value fitness, their children will likely do the same. When parents are sedentary, their children will likely be the same.
It’s hard for adults to get physically fit if they aren’t already, but with motivation, time allotted for exercise, and hard work, it’s never too late! Changing what you do won’t change who you are, but it may make you feel better. And it will provide a powerful and positive image of you in your child’s mind. And every parent wants to be a positive role model for their children.
Even if parents aren’t very active or physically fit, it’s important for children to be fit. Schools are putting less and less emphasis on physical education, so the push towards physical fitness begins with parents at home.
Children aren’t all born with the same athletic abilities. Not all children have to play organized sports. But most children can stand if they can sit, can run if they can walk, can pull if they can push, can hike if they can bike. Only children with the most profound developmental disabilities or special health care needs get a pass on this one.
For everyone else, the Olympic motto should suffice: “Citius – Altius – Fortius” (Faster – Higher – Stronger).