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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000186
Applied Sciences

Associations of Motor and Cardiovascular Performance with Academic Skills in Children

HAAPALA, EERO A.1; POIKKEUS, ANNA-MAIJA2; TOMPURI, TUOMO1,3; KUKKONEN-HARJULA, KATRIINA1,4; LEPPÄNEN, PAAVO H. T.5; LINDI, VIRPI1; LAKKA, TIMO A.1,6

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Abstract

Purpose: We investigated the associations of cardiovascular and motor performance in grade 1 with academic skills in grades 1–3.

Methods: The participants were 6- to 8-yr-old children with complete data in grades 1–2 for 174 children and in grade 3 for 167 children. Maximal workload during exercise test was used as a measure of cardiovascular performance. The shuttle run test (SRT) time, the errors in balance test, and the number of cubes moved in box and block test (BBT) were measures of motor performance. Academic skills were assessed using reading fluency, reading comprehension, and arithmetic skill tests.

Results: Among boys, longer SRT time was associated with poorer reading fluency in grades 1–3 (β = −0.29 to −0.39, P < 0.01), reading comprehension in grades 1–2 (β = −0.25 to −0.29, P < 0.05), and arithmetic skills in grades 1–3 (β = −0.33 to −0.40, P < 0.003). Poorer balance was related to poorer reading comprehension (β = −0.20, P = 0.042). The smaller number of cubes moved in BBT was related to poorer reading fluency in grades 1–2 (β = 0.23–0.28, P < 0.03), reading comprehension in grade 3 (β = 0.23, P = 0.037), and arithmetic skills in grades 1–2 (β = 0.21–0.23, P < 0.043). Among girls, longer SRT time was related to poorer reading fluency in grade 3 (β = −0.27, P = 0.027) and arithmetic skills in grade 2 (β = −0.25, P = 0.040). The smaller number of cubes moved in BBT was associated with worse reading fluency in grade 2 (β = 0.26, P = 0.030). Cardiovascular performance was not related to academic skills.

Conclusions: Poorer motor performance was associated with worse academic skills in children, especially among boys. These findings emphasize early identification of children with poor motor performance and actions to improve these children’s motor performance and academic skills during the first school years.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine

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