The Association of Health-Related Fitness with Indicators of Academic Performance in Texas Schools

This study presents new insights into the relationship among physical activity and fitness and higher academic performance in schools. It uses data collected on students in grades 3 through 12 during the 2007–08 academic year (as mandated by Senate Bill 530) and merged with academic achievement data from the Texas Education Agency’s Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TASK). The data represent 83 percent of all school districts.

The researchers found small but positive grade-level associations between academic achievement (as measured by TASK) and health-related fitness as measured by body mass index and cardiovascular fitness tests of the FITTNESSGRAM® test battery. Results were consistently stronger in the middle school grades. Achievement in health-related fitness also was positively associated with school attendance. School attendance is a high priority area for schools as it also influences academic performance.

All together the results suggest that student fitness could be another important indicator of effective schools (or possibly that effective schools have fitter students). More research in this area could lead school officials to realize that promoting healthy lifestyles and achieving academic success are complementary and not competing approaches to children’s education and development.