WIN Wyoming and WIN the Rockies
Student Academic Success Tied to Physical
When I was a young girl growing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, P.E. classes were a
daily occurrence in my grade school and junior high school. Some kids loved P.E.
Some kids hated P.E. All kids participated in P.E., with the exception of a few
of my friends who came up with very ingenious ways to be excused from P.E. A lot
has changed in the last 30 to 40 years. As I visit schools now, I’m often
alarmed by how few schools offer daily P.E. classes. There is a growing national
effort to return physical education classes to the school day. That effort
received a major boost when the California Department of Education released
results from a 2001 state study that tied academic success to physical fitness.
- The research study matched scores from the 2001 Stanford Achievement Test
(Ninth Edition) with the state-mandated 2001 physical fitness test (Fitnessgram).
The study included almost a million students including 353,000 fifth
graders, 322,000 seventh graders and 279,000 ninth graders.
- The Fitnessgram was developed by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics
Research and evaluates six areas of fitness: 1) aerobic capacity or
endurance, 2) percent body fat, 3) abdominal strength and endurance, 4)
trunk strength and flexibility, 5) upper body strength and endurance, and 6)
- Using the Fitnessgram, only 23% of the California students tested were
considered physically fit.
- Higher academic achievement was associated with higher levels of fitness
for all three grade levels evaluated.
- The relationship between academic achievement and fitness was greater in
mathematics than in reading.
- When releasing the results of the study, State Superintendent of Public
Instruction Delaine Eastin said, "This statewide study provided
compelling evidence that the physical well-being of students has a direct
impact on their ability to achieve academically. We now have the proof we’ve
been looking for: students achieve best when they are physically fit.
Thousands of years ago, the Greeks understood the importance of improving
spirit, mind, and body. The research presented here validates their
philosophic approach with scientific validation."
- The state of California looks to physical education classes as the primary
avenue for promoting physical fitness. The goal of school P.E. is not to
encourage athletic competitiveness but rather to "provide students with
the knowledge, skills and confidence to participate in health enhancing
physical activity throughout their lives."
Source: California Department of Education, News Release, December 10,
2002, accessed via website on January 20, 2004;
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
to Thought Bullets--main page.
Return to home page.