FRIDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Middle school students who are physically fit are likely to score higher on standardized tests measuring reading and math abilities, a new study has found.
And, the average scores went up in correlation with levels of fitness, the findings showed.
"The more physically fit kids were, the higher their scores," said the study's lead author, Trent Petrie, director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton.
"Parents should encourage their kids to be physically active. There are some real cognitive and academic benefits that come from physical fitness," Petrie said.
Results of the study are scheduled to be presented Friday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Orlando, Fla.
The study included more than 1,200 middle school students from five schools in a suburban area of Texas, with 561 boys and 650 girls.
About 57 percent of the children were white, and nearly one-quarter were Mexican American. Nine percent were black and about 2 percent were of Asian descent.
The school district provided the researchers with information on the children's race, age, grade level and whether they qualified for the free school lunch program, which was an indicator of the family's socioeconomic status. The schools also provided scores to the tests, which were given between one and four months after the researchers had assessed the children's levels of fitness.
Fitness tests were administered during physical education classes to determine the youngsters' heart and lung health (cardiorespiratory fitness), as well as their body mass index (BMI), an indicator of how much body fat a person has. The children also filled out questionnaires that helped the researchers determine factors such as self-esteem and social support.
After accounting for factors such as age, se
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