Are you concerned about your child’s test scores? It may not his brain that’s the problem – but a lack of physical fitness. An intriguing new study shows that academic performance and grades are tied to the level of physical fitness in children. Getting fit may do more than just tone up a child’s body – it could boost his brain health too.
Researchers from West Virginia University tested almost 1,200 fifth graders in four areas – math, reading, science, and social studies using standardized tests. The fifth graders also had their fitness levels evaluated by a standardized fitness scale that measured their ability to do certain tasks. They were re-tested in all areas again when they reached the seventh grade.
The results? Tests scores were higher in children who had the highest levels of fitness in both the fifth grade and the seventh grades – followed by those who were unfit in the fifth grade but became fit by the seventh. Those who performed poorly on fitness tests in both grades had the lowest scores and averaged below the level of mastery in reading.
How does physical fitness in children affect a child’s test scores? Researchers don’t have a simple explanation, but believe that being physically fit helps to optimize blood sugar and hormone levels for maximum brain function and focus. A child who’s physically fit may feel more empowered and motivated to achieve. Studies in adults show that exercise boosts brain function – another factor that may be at work here.
Are schools and parents doing enough to promote physical fitness in children? Apparently not, since one in three children is overweight or obese. Although this study didn’t look at weight – only physical fitness levels – the two are intimately tied together – along with good nutrition. Kids need proper nutrition and regular physical exercise to maximize school performance and test scores.
If you’re concerned about your child’s test scores, don’t depend on phys ed classes to whip him into shape. Take steps to help your child be more active by encouraging him or to play outside and actively participate in a sport. The bonus? You could see your child’s test scores go up.