Physically fit students do better academically than others, study says. (Matthew Benoit)
Being in good shape may give young people an edge in the classroom

THE QUESTION Might being physically fit help young people academically?

THIS STUDY involved 312 middle school students (average age, 12). During one academic year, they had their body fat measured periodically and performed a battery of exercises to assess cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility and muscular strength and endurance. In the same school year, their grades were recorded in four core academic areas (English, math, science and world studies) and on a nationally standardized test. Students deemed the most physically fit had the highest grades and test scores; the least fit had the lowest. The results did not differ by sex or by whether the youths had reached puberty.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Young people. Exercise and physical activity in general have been shown to improve overall health, physical and emotional, and to help keep weight in check, which has become a nationwide problem for Americans of all ages. Guidelines suggest that young people engage in 60 minutes a day of physical activity.

CAVEATS The results showed an association between physical fitness and academic achievement, but did not prove cause and effect. The participating students represented a variety of races and ethnicities, but most were white.

FIND THIS STUDY December issue of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

LEARN MORE ABOUT physical fitness for youths at and (click “For Parents,” search for “fitness”).

— Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.