Children have become more obese and less fit since the ‘80s, and this could be due to physically inactive lifestyles. According to a report from the Archives of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2006, approximately one-third of American youth do not meet physical fitness standards. Dr. Russell R. Pate and colleagues measured the fitness levels of 3,287 individuals ranging in age from 12 to 19 years old, between 1999 and 2002, as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Only about 65 percent of these youth met the standards of physical fitness. Researchers of this study were concerned about the results because low physical fitness in younger age tends to trend toward adulthood and thus can represent a significant public health problem.
Dr. Lesley A. Cottrell, an associate professor of pediatrics at West Virginia University, presented a study about students’ academic performances and physical fitness levels at the 2010 American Heart Association Conference on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism. The study analyzed 725 fifth grade students from Weed County, West Virginia for two years and found out that students who had the best average standard academic test scores maintained their fitness level through the end of study. Children who were not fit in either the beginning or the end of the study showed lower academic performance. This result supports an earlier study published by Chomitz and other researchers in the Journal of School Health in 2009, which showed that 4th – 8th graders who did well on fitness tests also did well on math and English tests. Dr. Cottrell and his research associates suggested that promoting physical fitness at school would result in smarter and healthier kids.
Investing time and resources in physical training to become fit won’t divert students from their academic achievement. On the contrary, it may bring even greater benefit to it. Parents and school administrators have at least one more good reason to promote physical activity and start fighting obesity with, and for, our younger generation.
Mr. Li is a doctoral teaching assistant at the United States Sports Academy. He previously worked as a leisure management instructor at Leader University in Taiwan. He has a master’s degree from the University of New Orleans and a bachelor’s degree from Taiwan’s National College of Physical Education and Sports.