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AHA: Physical Fitness Linked to Academic Performance

And, girls participating in organized physical activity exhibit lower body fat at ages 18 to 19

WEDNESDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are aerobically fit may have a higher level of academic achievement, and girls who participate in organized physical activity may have lower body fat as they reach adulthood, according to research presented this week at the American Heart Association's joint conference of the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention and the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, held from March 2 to 5 in San Francisco.

In one study, Lesley A. Cottrell, Ph.D., of West Virginia University in Morgantown, and colleagues assessed fitness levels and standardized academic test scores in 725 West Virginia fifth-graders, and compared the data to fitness and academic performance when the students were in seventh grade. They found that children who were fit at the start and end of the study had the highest average scores in standardized tests in reading, math, science and social studies, while children who were not fit at the start and end of the study had the lowest academic performance.

In second study, Jennie Phillips, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland in College Park, and colleagues studied 2,379 girls for 10 years. Compared to girls who never reported any organized physical activity from ages 9 to 10 to 15 to 16, they found that those who consistently reported some organized physical activity during those periods had significantly lower average body fat at ages 18 to 19 (31.7 versus 35.4 percent).

"These findings have significant implications for the role of physical activity and physical education in the primary school system for potentially improving children's academic performance," Cottrell and colleagues conclude.

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