The emphasis was on fitness, not body weight, Cottrell said, which is good news for those children carrying a few extra pounds. "It's really their level of fitness [that is associated with the better test scores], not their body mass index," she said, citing previous research that agreed with that finding.
The study results came as no surprise to Todd Galati, an exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise in San Diego. ''These findings are in line with other studies that show similar correlations with increased fitness and higher test scores," he said.
Why the link? "I believe it's showing the mind-body connection," Galati said. "We have a body that is meant to move." Regular physical activity, he said, can result in positive mood, healthy blood sugar levels and increased ability to focus and pay attention.
According to Galati and Cottrell, the data point to the need for schools and parents to pay more attention to the value of physical activity.
Yet another study due to be presented at the same meeting points to the value of physical activity, too. In that effort, researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, followed nearly 2,400 girls for 10 years, assessing their body fat levels.
Those who engaged in moderate weekly activity had lower body fat at the study's end than did the sedentary girls, the study found.
There's more on boosting physical activity in school at the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Lesley Cottrell, Ph.D., associate professor, pediatrics, University of West Virginia, Morgantown; American Heart Association's 2010 Conference on Nutrition, Physical
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