Physically fit children are more likely to excel in studies, says a new study.
The role of a healthy body in the physical and mental development at childhood is well-known. Now, new evidence shows that it can also help keep the brain healthy and achieve academic excellence.
The study, reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, mainly focused on the influence of certain components of physical fitness - including cardiorespiratory capacity, muscular strength and motor ability - on school grades.
Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the capability of heart and lungs to distribute fuel and oxygen throughout the body during an exercise program. On the other hand, motor ability includes skills of balancing, reaction time, speed and coordination.
The researchers mainly wanted to find out which physical fitness component was most crucial for academic success. "Because these physical fitness components are highly associated with each other, it is important to differentiate which physical fitness components are important in relation to academic performance," Irene Esteban-Cornejo, from the Autonomous University of Madrid, said in a news release.
For analysing the link, researchers selected 2,038 Spanish children, aged between six and 18. They collected information on the children's physical fitness, body composition and school grades.
Results showed that motor ability was most important to excel in studies, while cardiorespiratory capacity closely followed it. Having lower levels of both of the components was associated with poor grades. Researchers couldn't find muscular strength playing any role in academic performance.
"Having high levels of cardiorespiratory and motor fitness may, to some extent, reduce the risk of school failure," Esteban-Cornejo, added later.
Several studies in the past have shown similar results. In December 2012, researchers from Michigan State University found a direct link between physical fitness at middle school and ability to perform in school tests. In the study, children with the best physical shape performed better in standardized test and scored better grades than their unfit peers. "Fit kids are more likely to be fit adults," co-author James Pivarnik, an MSU professor of kinesiology, said in a news release at that time. "And now we see that fitness is tied to academic achievement. So hopefully the fitness and the success will both continue together."
Physical activity is the most important factor needed for motor development. Data shows that motor skills are developed during preschool years, i.e. between three to five years. So experts recommend parents to get enough physical activity to their children, mainly through activities like running, throwing, jumping, throwing or catching.