Do Fit Kids Get Better Grades?

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Day Care & Education, Sports

I once trained an 11-year-old boy who was overweight and a little on the shy side. We met twice a week and completed resistance exercises using his own body weight, resistance bands and medicine balls. We trained outside and ran up hills and stairs, and did various types of jumping jacks, push-ups and sit-ups on the grass. In addition, he went for walks with his parents three times a week. Within several months of consistent training, his grades, self confidence and fitness level all went up.

As responsible parents, making every effort to get our kids active on a daily basis should be a priority. For those of you who need an extra incentive to get your kids moving, did you ever consider the positive impact of increased fitness levels on your child's grades? Over the past 20 years, researchers have examined this relationship among kids of differing ages and in all cases, concluded that physically active and fit children have better academic achievements, along with improved concentration skills and better classroom behaviour.

For example, the 2009 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth revealed that children who are more physically active are also more academically fit, achieving better scores in math and reading, higher grades, greater perceptual skill and overall academic readiness.

A similar U.S. study looked at the relationship between academic achievement and a state-mandated fitness test measuring cardiovascular endurance, body composition, abdominal strength and endurance, trunk strength and flexibility, upper body strength and endurance, and overall flexibility. As you might guess, of the 954,000 students in grades five, seven and nine, higher academic performance was positively related to higher levels of fitness, with the greatest academic gains in students who met three or more physical fitness standards.

In my practice, I make a point of finding out about my clients' grades and in all cases, as we progress through their fitness program over the course of several months, their grades seem to improve as well as their health. The demand for excellence in their training translates into a higher self-esteem and expectation of themselves. It truly is a rewarding experience.

What Can You Do?
With the traditional focus of parents and curriculum planners on the need to increase instructional time in reading, writing and arithmetic, physical education typically suffers. Parents and the research community need to take note of this linear relationship and pressure curriculum designers to put physical education in its rightful place among the prioritized school subjects.

At home, substitute a portion (at least half) of the allotted two-hour period of television time with active time. The Surgeon General recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week. This doesn't have to cost money. For parents whose kids are not involved in extracurricular sports, simply plan to take your kids for a brisk walk after dinner. Make a game of it. Jump over lines in the sidewalk or try to jump over an entire sidewalk block. Be creative, as the simplest things can keep your kids happy and occupied. You can even go to a park on the weekends and play a good, old-fashioned game of tag. Your kids -- and your heart -- will thank you.

Reggie Reyesis a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids
a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.