Research showing a link between fitness and academics is growing.
The California Department of Education (CDE) looked for a correlation between fitness scores and test scores. They found that kids who were deemed fit (by a standard test of aerobic capacity, BMI, abdominal strength, trunk strength, upper body strength and overall flexibility) scored twice as well on academic tests as those that were unfit. In the second year of the study, socio-economic status was taken into account, to possibly eliminate that variable as an explanation. As expected, those in the upper-income brackets scored better overall on the academic tests, but within the lower-income set of students, the same results were observed - kids who were more fit performed better academically.
Charles Hillman, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois, was able to duplicate these findings with 259 third and fifth-grade Illinois students. His team also noticed that two of the tests, BMI and aerobic capacity, were significantly more influential to higher academic scores than the other four fitness factors. Digging deeper, he isolated two groups of 20 students, one fit and the other unfit. They were given cognitive tests of attention, working memory and processing speed while their brain's electrical activity was being measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG) test.
The fit kids' brains showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex, known for its executive function and control over other brain processes.