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Is There a Relationship Between Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement? Positive Results From Public School Children in the Northeastern United States


  • This study was supported in part through the US Department of Education Carol M White Physical Education Program grant Q215F041121 to the Cambridge Public School Department.

Virginia R. Chomitz, Senior Scientist, Institute for Community Health, Lecturer on Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, (, 163 Gore St, Cambridge, MA 02141.


OBJECTIVES:  To determine relationships between physical fitness and academic achievement in diverse, urban public school children.

METHODS:  This cross-sectional study used public school data from 2004 to 2005. Academic achievement was assessed as a passing score on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) achievement tests in Mathematics (fourth, sixth, and eighth grade, n = 1103) and in English (fourth and seventh grade, n = 744). Fitness achievement was assessed as the number of physical fitness tests passed during physical education (PE). Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess the probability of passing the MCAS tests, controlling for students’ weight status (BMI z score), ethnicity, gender, grade, and socioeconomic status (school lunch enrollment).

RESULTS:  The odds of passing both the MCAS Mathematics test and the MCAS English test increased as the number of fitness tests passed increased (p < .0001 and p < .05, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS:  Results show statistically significant relationships between fitness and academic achievement, though the direction of causation is not known. While more research is required, promoting fitness by increasing opportunities for physical activity during PE, recess, and out of school time may support academic achievement.