236653 Student Fitness and Academic Performance in West Virginia: A Longitudinal Examination During the 5th and 7th Grade Years

Monday, October 31, 2011: 8:50 AM

Richard A. Wittberg, PhD , Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, Parkersburg, WV
Lesley A. Cottrell, PhD , Department of Pediatrics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Karen L. Northrup, RN, MS , MIS, Wood County Schools, Parkersburg, WV
Background: Studies that examine the longitudinal fitness effects on student academics are limited. Purpose: A longitudinal examination was used to assess potential differences in academic achievement among children who may have gained or lost fitness over a two-year period. Significance: Increasing student fitness may be one way of improving academic performance in a school setting. Methodology: The study sample consisted of three cohorts of students (n=1,725) enrolled in a West Virginia public school system. Students received baseline fitness and academic assessments as fifth graders and follow-up assessments two years later. FITNESSGRAM was used to assess fitness in aerobic capacity, and WESTEST, a criterion-based assessment, for academic performance. Results: Students who stayed in the healthy fitness zone (HFz 5th and 7th) were found to have significantly higher WESTEST scores than students who stayed in the needs improvement zone (NIz 5th and 7th). Students who moved into the HFz or fell out of the HFz between 5th and 7th grades had similar WESTEST scores in both 5th and 7th grades. While WESTEST scores for students who moved into or out of the HFZ were occasionally significantly lower than students who stayed in the HFz, they were more often significantly higher than students who stayed in the NIz. Conclusions: Students' aerobic capacity is associated with academic achievement and moderate aerobic fitness may confer much of the benefit of being aerobically fit.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Advocacy for health and health education
Chronic disease management and prevention
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate the association between aerobic fitness and academic achievement over time.

Keywords: School Health, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked and published in this area for 5 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.