Schools with fitter children achieve better literacy and numeracy results, according to Australian research.
The study by physiologist Dr Dick Telford, of the Australian National University, and colleagues, was published in a recent issue of the journal Pediatric Exercise Science.
“A school that has, on average, high fitness levels will have, on average, higher literacy and numeracy levels,” says Telford.
Previous research in animals and humans has suggested greater fitness and physical activity leads to changes in the brain activity and better performance in cognitive tests and concentration.
“It took scientists by surprise to a certain degree that there was a consistent relationship,” says Telford.
Telford and colleagues followed 800 children from age 8 to age 12 in 29 schools to see if physical fitness and activity affected academic performance.
The randomised cluster study measured physical activity (using pedometers), physical fitness (using a multistage running test), and body fat percentage of each child.
This was then compared to the childrens’ academic performance in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test.
The study found a relationship between academic performance and the fitness of the child, confirming findings from other studies.
But, uniquely, this study found that the relationship between fitness and academic performance was particularly strong at the school level.