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Heart, Lung Health Linked With Better Grades: Study

08/06/2012 02:28 pm ET

Maybe running those laps around the gym during P.E. are worth it, after all.

The biggest factor in predicting good math and reading scores in middle-schoolers is having good heart and lung health, according to new research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

The finding "provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students' involvement in physical education classes," study researcher Trent A. Petrie, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of North Texas, said in a statement.

Petrie's study included 1,211 middle school students from Texas (average of 12). The researchers asked the students questions about how much physical activity they got, their self-esteem, their family and friends support system, and how well they think they did in school about one to five months before they took standardized tests on math and reading. The researchers also worked with the students' gym teachers to test all different levels of the students' physical fitness.

Researchers found that lung and heart health were the biggest predictors of good scores on the math and reading tests. In addition, researchers found that having a good support system was linked with better reading scores among the middle-school boys, while having a higher BMI was linked with better reading scores among the middle-school girls.

Earlier this year, a study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health showed that getting 45 minutes of P.E. each day is linked with score improvements on cognitive tests in African-American elementary-schoolers and middle-schoolers.

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