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RESTON, VA, December 10, 2002 – Physically fit children do perform better academically! The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) commends the California Department of Education (CDE) for its study released today that shows a distinct relationship between academic achievement and physical fitness of California’s public school students.
“It makes great common sense to physical educators that active, physically fit children will perform better academically,” said NASPE Executive Director Judith C. Young, Ph.D. “Now the California Department of Education has provided specific evidence. NASPE urges further research to examine relationships between physical activity and academic performance. In addition, information is needed which compares the students’ physical education programs to their various levels of fitness.”
The newly completed research study individually matched scores from the spring 2001 administration of the Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition (SAT-9), given as part of California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, with results of the state-mandated physical fitness test, known as the Fitnessgram, given in 2001 to students in grades five, seven, and nine. The Fitnessgram, developed by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, assesses six major health-related areas of physical fitness including aerobic capacity (cardiovascular endurance), body composition (percentage of body fat), abdominal strength and endurance, trunk strength and flexibility, upper body strength and endurance, and overall flexibility. A score of 6 indicates that a student is in the healthy fitness zone in all six performance areas, and meets standards to be considered physically fit.
In the study, reading and mathematics scores were matched with fitness scores of 353,000 fifth graders, 322,000 seventh graders, and 279,000 ninth graders. The attached bar graphs for each grade level show a significant relationship between the two types of scores that were matched.
Key findings of the study are:
According to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, “This statewide study provides compelling evidence that the physical well-being of students has a direct impact on their ability to achieve academically. We now have the proof we’ve been looking for: students achieve best when they are physically fit. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks understood the importance of improving spirit, mind, and body. The research presented here validates their philosophic approach with scientific validation.”
Eastin pointed to physical education as a primary source for promoting physical fitness. “Every student in California should have quality physical education experiences from kindergarten through high school,” Eastin said. “The goal of these programs should be to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to participate in health enhancing physical activity throughout their lives.”
The California Education Code mandates physical education for all students in grades one through nine, plus one additional year in high school. Students in grades one through six are required to have 200 minutes of physical education every 10 school days, and students in grades seven through twelve are required to have 400 minutes every 10 school days. Specific recommendations for teachers, students, and their families are available on the CDE Web site at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/cyfsbranch/lsp/health/pecommunications.htm.
Families are encouraged to plan activities that include opportunities for all family members to be physically active together. Health-related fitness assessment results can be used as a tool to help students understand, enjoy, improve, and maintain their physical health and well-being.
Information about the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) can be found on the Internet at www.aahperd.org, the web site of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD). NASPE is the largest of AAHPERD’s six national associations. A nonprofit membership organization of over 18,000 professionals in the fitness and physical activity fields, NASPE is the only national association dedicated to strengthening basic knowledge about sport and physical education among professionals and the general public. Putting that knowledge into action in schools and communities across the nation is critical to improved academic performance, social reform and the health of individuals.