Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement

Should there be a requirement for all school systems to incorporate a physical fitness program permanently into their curriculum? Is it a surprise that “65 percent of the nation’s adults are overweight or obese, and 10 percent of the population has type 2 diabetes, a preventable and ruinous disease that stems from inactivity and poor nutrition? ” (Ratey & Hagerman, 2008, p. 4). There has been documented proof that exercise has a positive effect on the brain.

Youth that receive elevated amounts of physical activity tend to show improved attributes such as increased brain function and nourishment, higher energy/concentration levels, changes in body build affecting self esteem, increased self-esteem and better behavior which may all support cognitive learning (Scheuer, 2003). There have been case studies that show a relationship between exercise and academic achievement. With this correlation between exercise and the brain, and exercise and academic achievement, is it worth the cost to incorporate a physical fitness program into school curriculums across the nation?

Physical fitness, a physical fitness programs should be required in all schools because of the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement. There is a dynamic relationship that occurs between exercise and the brain. In today’s technology-driven, high definition LCD-screened-in world, it is easy to forget that humans are born movers, animals in fact. Today’s society has engineered movement right out of daily life. There is a pronounced relationship between food, physical activity, and learning. All three are hardwired into the brain.

The dynamic relationship that occurs between exercise and the brain is being neglected because of today’s engineering marvels. It is known that, when exercising, the body has increased levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Norephinephrine is the chemical that stimulates the fight or flight response in the body, giving the body sudden energy in times of stress. Dopamine is a chemical that helps improve the function of the central nervous system. Serotonin is a chemical that assists the brain and can have effects on a person’s mood.

It is important to know the definitions of these three key chemicals that are released while working out because these chemicals are vitally important to the brain. These three chemicals help give the body energy to work out, help with the function of the central nervous system, and help regulate how a person feels. All three of these functions are important for an individual seeking an improvement in academic achievement. Having more energy to be attentive, feeling physically better, and feeling an emotional sense of well-being is critical for individuals or children attending school.

The dynamic relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement has been tested for many years. There are countless case studies that show a positive correlation between physical fitness and academic achievement. Although research is considered to be inconclusive because of the way the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement was evaluated, there have been many case studies that suggest physical activity can help academic achievement. One case study completed by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services was made public in July 2010.

Researchers studied the association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. The case study was a literature review that included 50 studies that spanned 23 years of research. This study reported that the majority of students showed a positive relationship between academic performance and physical activity. The study concluded that schools should continue to provide or increase the amount of physical activity opportunities for students. This study also concluded that adding physical activities during the school day does not seem to take away from academic performance. (U. S.

Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). The second case study was completed by The American College of Sports Medicine and was made public in 2007. This case study looked at physical fitness and academic achievement in elementary school children. The main purpose was to examine the relationship among health-related components of physical fitness and academic achievement scores in elementary school children. Data was collected from 134 third through fifth grade children. The conclusion from the collected data indicated a pronounced link between components of physical fitness and academic achievement in elementary school children.

(American College of Sports Medicine, 2007). The next case study was completed by the Department of Physical Activity Sciences at the University of Quebec, Canada. It was published in 2008. This case study looked at physical education, school physical activity, school sports, and academic performance. Researchers looked specifically at an emphasis on physical education that would result in small absolute gains in grade point averages. This case study concluded that there was a positive association between physical activity and academic performance and that there was a positive influence on concentration, memory, and classroom behavior.

(Department of Physical Activity Sciences, Quebec, Canada, 2008). The final case study was completed in Australia and looked at academic performance, physical activity and fitness in children. This study looked at 7,961 school children, ages 7 through 15. Results of the study indicated a strong correlation between increased physical activity and improved academic performance. (Scheuer, 2003). Although there have been many different case studies, they all used different methods to measure the gains between physical fitness and academic achievement.

With all the different tests used to measure the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement, all the studies had one thing in common. The studies all show a direct correlation between physical fitness and academic achievement, and an improvement in both physical fitness and academic achievement. With a direct correlation between physical fitness and academic achievement, a requirement is needed for all school systems to incorporate a physical fitness program permanently into their curriculum.

While growing up, many children view gym class as a joke. Children go to the gym and have a little fun; however it is not especially educational. Even though the benefits of physical exercise have been acknowledged, physical education in most public schools is viewed as an extracurricular activity. Even with the positive impact of physical activity on an individual’s mood, attention, self-esteem, and social skills, administrators continue to view physical education as an extracurricular activity. Many physical education teachers have had the experience of a reduction or elimination of physical education programs.

When money is tight and/or when there is pressure to improve grade point averages or test scores, physical education is one of the first activities to be cut back or eliminated. However, with evidence that physical education has had a direct positive effect on important educational domains such as reading and mathematics, it could be argued that physical education should not be considered extracurricular. Rather, it should be a vital component in students’ academic success.

There are many benefits for students who maintain high levels of physical fitness including enhanced brain functions, higher energy levels and improved self-esteem. In addition many behaviors that result in improved academic performance can be attributed to physical activity; however, because of inconclusive research, it cannot be proved that increased physical activity causes improved academic performance. Regardless of the inconclusive research, it is obvious that many positive relationships between the two have been suggested.

With this positive relationship suggested between fitness and school performance, and with the educational system continuing to strive for academic achievement, doing away with programs that teach and promote physical activity may have the opposite of the intended effect. Perhaps educators should stop decreasing opportunities for students to engage in physical activity. School officials should consider developing and implementing enhanced physical activity programs throughout the school systems to improve the physical and mental well being of young people. References

American College of Sports Medicine. (2007). _Medicine & Science in Sports & exercise_. Retrieved from http://journals. lww. com/acsmmsse/Fulltext/2007/05001/Physical_Fitness_and_Academic _Achievement_in. 2395. aspx Department of Physical Activity Sciences, Quebec, Canada. (2008). _The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity_. Retrieved from http://www. ijbnpa. org/content/5/1/10 Grissom, J. B. (2005). PHYSICAL FITNESS AND ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT. _Journal of Exercise Physiologyonline, 8_(1), 11-25. Retrieved from http://www. asep. org/files/Grissom. pdf Ratey, J. J. , & Hagerman, E. (2008).

Spark the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. Scheuer, L. J. (2003). _Does Physical Activity Influence Academic Performance_. Sports- media. org. Retrieved from http://www. sports-media. org/sportapolisnewsletter19. htm U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). _The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance_. Retrieved from http://www. cdc. gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/pa-pe_paper. pdf