Well, there you have it! After analyzing a decade’s worth of data that examined the academic performance (gpa, test scores, attendance) and aerobic fitness of hundreds of thousands of 5-7-9th graders, guess what! Researchers determined the more aerobically fit, the better the school performance. Or, more strongly messaged – fitter kids are smarter kids!
How exciting is this headline! And, the results cut across all demographics meaning ANY kid can be smarter, not just the ones attending schools within tony zip codes. But while there isn’t a more important take-away than the message itself we need to dig into the backstory to fully appreciate what this means.
In an age of educational reform that has prioritized literacy and math as the cornerstones of a ‘common core’, and high-stakes testing to determine a school’s capacity to deliver results, most schools have responded by increasing the time allotted to the ‘core’ thus decreasing time afforded to physical activity (physical education and recess).
None of us would disagree that our kids deserve optimum opportunity to develop the targeted critical thinking skills, but here is the kicker – academically, students of schools that did NOT reduce the time afforded to physical activity statistically did as well as students of schools that did reduce physical activity so to spend more time on the core.
Now we really have a message! – Fitter kids are smarter kids AND dedicated physical activity time enhances rather than compromises academic performance. School-based physical activity programming DOES matter and DOES make a difference.
But back to the research to dig more. School academic performance also correlates to adult earning potential: the more academic success the higher the earning potential. Nearly 1 in 4 child lives in poverty with the prevalence increasing. Sadly, kids who grow up impoverished are statistically likely to remain impoverished, or cycle back into poverty even if overcome.
Yikes! But, one more gem to throw in the mix. While overweight/obesity strikes all demographic profiles, a disproportionate prevalence is among those of lower SES. Statistically, it’s likely that an overweight/obese child is dually challenged by poverty.
Now what’s the take-away from ‘fitter kids being smarter kids’?
Kids are underserved when their daily physical activity isn’t ensured – for their quality of life today and for what statistically follows them through adulthood. So what should OUR take-away be?
–Volunteer for a school’s physical activity program (e.g., physical education, before or after-school programming). Pay motivation forward to kids (and notch your own ‘Footprint at the same time).
–Talk about this at your next coffee date, dinner party, power walk, aerobics class, basketball game… YOU CAN make a difference and start a trend…
–Use your social media platforms to trend the message. It’s juicy and ripe for social media. Using our networks will grow productive advocacy
School-based physical activity programming DOES matter and DOES make a difference.
After all, fitter kids are smarter kids!