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Physically Fit Children Are Also the Best Performers in Class, Researchers Find

Update Date: Dec 07, 2012 11:58 AM EST

Children who are physically in the best shape, not only outshine others in sports, but are also more likely to be the best performers in class, a new research suggests.

The study from Michigan State University which involved middle school students is the first study of its kind to have linked children's fitness to better scores on objective tests and grades, which rely on subjective decisions by teachers.

The study is also one of the first to assess how children's physical fitness like muscular strength and flexibility impacts their academic performance, says lead researcher Dawn Coe.

"We looked at the full range of what's called health-related fitness," said Coe, Medical Xpress reports. "Kids aren't really fit if they're doing well in just one of those categories."

For the study, the researchers analyzed the data of 312 students in sixth through eighth grade at a West Michigan school.

The researchers then gauged the fitness of the kids through an established program of push-ups, shuttle runs and other exercises. They then compared the physical state of the students with their letter grades in four core classes throughout the year and their performance on a standardized test.

The findings of the tests revealed that children who were the fittest also got the highest test scores and the best grades. Gender of the students didn't seem to make any difference in the findings.

The results suggests that physical activity must be encouraged and not cut down for a school's funding and prestige, said co-author James Pivarnik, who advised Coe on the project.

"Look, your fitter kids are the ones who will do better on tests, so that would argue against cutting physical activity from the school day," said Pivarnik, an MSU professor of kinesiology.

"That's the exciting thing, is if we can get people to listen and have some impact on public policy. Fit kids are more likely to be fit adults," Pivarnik added said. "And now we see that fitness is tied to academic achievement. So hopefully the fitness and the success will both continue together."

The study was published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

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