Data from clinical trials have justified the promotion of fitness
as a means to enhance facets of cognitive control and academic achievement in youth. However, such associations, when tested under real-world conditions, are equivocal. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to evaluate longitudinal associations between aerobic capacity (AC), weight status, and academic achievement within a large urban county.
Longitudinal data were obtained from a sample of third, fifth, and seventh grade students in schools within an urban county in Georgia. Data on body mass index (BMI) were available from 11,639 students; AC data from 5735 students. Data on both indicators were obtained through the established FitnessGram assessment battery with 2-yr changes calculated using standardized Z
scores. Academic achievement data were available from three subjects (math, science, and reading) for third, fifth, and seventh grade students, and 2-yr changes were computed using changes in Z
scores for each test. Data were analyzed using generalized logistic models to test associations between change in BMI and AC in relation to changes in academic achievement.
Positive associations were observed between improvements in weight status and academic achievement for the fifth grade boys and girls ([reading] odds ratio [OR], 1.47; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25–1.72; [science] OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.04–1.42). Maintaining weight status was associated with improved scores in the third grade ([math] OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.012–1.327; [reading] OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.25–1.72) and fifth grade cohorts (math OR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.00.1.43). For AC, no significant associations were found for any age cohort.
Modest associations between improvements in weight status, AC, and academic achievement are noteworthy, despite the lack of statistical significance for AC. The results provide a robust evaluation of associations between fitness
and academic achievement.