It is already known that elements of physical fitness can contribute to improved health in children that persists into adulthood. However, a new study, due to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics, has now looked at which particular element of physical fitness plays the most important role in aiding academic performance among school-aged children.
Experts generally cite three main elements of physical fitness that help in improving overall health. These are heart and lung capacity, strength of muscles, and motor abilities.
However, until now, it was impossible to say which one of these – if any – had the biggest effect on academic performance.
Recently 2,038 Spanish children took part in a study that involved analyzing a whole range of data relating to their individual physical and mental abilities, and it revealed that heart and lung capacity and motor ability, both together and individually, could be linked to academic performance.
Of these two particular elements, motor ability appeared to have the stronger link to academic ability and when looking at the situation in reverse, those children with lower heart and lung capacity and less motor ability actually had lower grades.
The study concludes that having good motor abilities, followed by good heart and lung strength, can lead to better performance at school. Interestingly muscular strength was found not to be a key influencing factor in academic performance.
It appears that rather than merely trying to encourage children to study harder and sit indoors doing their homework in order to get better grades, parents and teachers should also ensure that the children undertake aerobic exercise and special tasks to develop their motor abilities in order to improve their performance at school.
This study lends credence to the decades old practices of having children play during recess, and also develop stronger bodies during physical education classes.