kids-fitness-weightWhat is a better predictor of how well kids do in school… their weight or fitness level? A study from Lincoln, Nebraska, examined this question and found the answer is… fitness!

Researchers reviewed data for students in 4th through 8th grades from 47 public schools. That data included standardized test results in math and reading, BMI (Body Mass Index), and aerobic fitness levels measured through PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run) results.

Bob Rauner (MD, MPH) is the Director of the Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln and a researcher in the study. In an interview with Prism Fitness Group, Rauner said the study results were unexpected. “We were surprised at how large the association was with fitness and how small the obesity effect was after controlling for socioeconomic status (SES),” said Rauner. He says weight itself had no association with academics, whereas the association with fitness was almost as large as SES. “This was new in the academic literature,” Rauner said.

Increasing physical fitness in children should be a priority, says Rauner. “SES is out of our control, weight status takes years to achieve significant effects, but fitness can be changed in months, especially with changes in the curriculum.” He adds that reducing time for physical education and recess in favor of more learning time is likely counterproductive. “Adequate time for PE and recess should be a higher priority for curriculum time than it is currently given by school districts.”

The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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