Online Program

Relationship between physical fitness, weight status and academic performance: Longitudinal evidence from one school district

Monday, November 4, 2013

Denise Aske, MPH, MA, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, PhD, MPA, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Lisa Arsenault, PhD, Institute for Community Health, Institute for Community Health, Cambridge, MA
Sarita Bhalotra, MD, PhD, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Xiaodong Liu, EdD, Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Virginia Chomitz, PhD, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Background: Mounting evidence suggests physically fit students perform better academically than their non-active peers, though few studies have utilized longitudinal designs. This study investigates whether students maintaining high fitness continue to perform better than their non-fit peers over time and whether students improving fitness scores over time experience a corresponding improvement in academic performance. Methods: A racially and socio-economically diverse school district in the greater Boston area provided secondary data on 4th – 8th grade students between 2006 and 2008. Academic performance was assessed by standardized Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) math tests at each grade, which were converted to z-scores to facilitate interpretation. Cardiovascular fitness was assessed by age- and gender-adjusted performance in a 20-yard shuttle run (pass/fail). Student-level covariates included race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status (free or reduced lunch eligibility) and weight status (body mass index). Linear regression models were used to assess cross-sectional associations between fitness and academic performance in preparation for longitudinal analyses. Results: Multivariate analyses (n=1815) found significant positive relationships between MCAS scores and physical fitness (p<0.01) in each study year. Additionally, from adjusted models, females (p<0.05) were found to perform significantly higher while low-income (p<0.01), black (p<0.001) and Hispanic (p<0.0001) students were found to perform significantly lower on MCAS tests. Conclusion: Preliminary analyses demonstrate significant cross-sectional relationships between student fitness and academic performance in each study year. Further analyses will determine whether this relationship is maintained over time and how longitudinal changes in student fitness are associated with changes in standardized math scores.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the relationship between physical fitness, weight status and academic performance. Discuss the benefits of a longitudinal design when studying the factors influencing academic performance.

Keyword(s): Children and Adolescents, School Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked on multiple physical activity related studies that have investigated the factors and predictors of physical activity participation among children and adolescents. Among my scientific interests includes developing a better understanding of the impact of physical activity in non-health related areas, including academic performance. The data submitted in this abstract is part of my doctoral dissertation studies.
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.