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NHPS Releases Findings Linking Fitness, Academics & Behavior

A Link Among Physical Fitness, Academic Achievements, and Behavior

Mary Kate Mouser (2nd left) joins John Ray (far left), Governor Jack Markell (2nd left), and Linda Wolfe (far right) to announce the findings of a recently completed report showing kids that are more physically fit do better academically.

Today, Nemours Health & Prevention Services (NHPS) division, Governor Jack Markell, along with representatives from Delaware’s Department of Education announced the results of a recently completed study. The findings show a clear and consistent relationship between fitness and academic achievement as well as fitness and student behavior regardless of a student’s gender, race, family income, or school district.

"The results show that exercise is good for our brains, good for our health and good for our state. I hope we can get the word out to more parents and students about the benefits of fitness,” said Governor Markell.

"Through the use of the FitnessGram®, a health-related fitness assessment tool, and EschoolPlus, we were able to identify levels of physical fitness and merge the data with attendance and behavioral records for the study," stated Dr. Marina Kaplan, senior scientist for NHPS.

The study, which analyzed records of more than 80,064 students in Delaware, indicates that students who are more physically fit perform significantly better in both reading and math. Further, students who are less physically fit exhibit significantly lower scores in these subjects and also have more suspension days and absenteeism.

These findings are consistent with a number of research studies suggesting a link between physical activity, student behavior, and academic achievement. Studies have shown that physical activity is linked to better concentration, reduced disruptive behaviors, and higher test scores in reading, math, and writing.

This study is the first to demonstrate these relationships among students in Delaware. Other states, such as Texas, have conducted similar studies demonstrating that physically fit students are more likely to do better in school and less likely to have disciplinary problems.

"While this type of study cannot show a direct cause-and-effect relationship between fitness and achievement, it shows a strong connection between Delaware children's fitness and both their academic achievement and behavior," Secretary of Education Dr. Lillian M. Lowery said. "The findings support what we already know: We must pay attention to a child's entire well-being, recognizing that a student's physical health is important for the student's academic and social health."

Currently, 12 states embrace the importance of physical activity for students with policies requiring 150 minutes of physical activity each week. In Delaware, 72% of the elementary schools are engaged with NHPS in helping their students achieve this weekly goal.