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The role of physical fitness in academic achievement

Dissertation
Author: William J. Hannigan
Abstract:
Despite the research indicating a direct relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement, physical fitness levels of students are decreasing in many schools, along with opportunities for physical fitness. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement, as measured by the President's Challenge Physical Fitness Test scores and academic averages in the areas of reading and math. Achievement goal theory provided the framework for the study. The study took place in a private day school in southern U.S. states. The sample included 60 fifth grade students. To examine the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement for the sample, the independent variable was the students' fitness levels as determined by the President's Challenge Physical Fitness Test, while the dependent variable was students' academic averages in reading and math. Pearson correlational analysis revealed non-significant relationships between physical fitness and reading and physical fitness and mathematics. The non-significant findings may have been related to the small sample size and limited time frame for analysis. This study contributes to social change by identifying the link that exists in some school settings between fitness and achievement, presenting the importance of youth fitness, and challenging the elimination of fitness programs in schools.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF TABLES ..............................................................................................................v

LIST OF FIGURES .......................................................................................................... vi

SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY ...........................................................1 Introduction .........................................................................................................................1 Problem Statement ..............................................................................................................2 Nature of the Study .............................................................................................................6 Research Questions and Hypotheses ...................................................................................7 Purpose of the Study ...........................................................................................................8 Theoretical Framework .......................................................................................................8 Definitions of Terms ..........................................................................................................13 Scope and Delimitation ......................................................................................................14 Assumptions and Limitations ............................................................................................14 Study Significance .............................................................................................................15 Summary ...........................................................................................................................17

SECTION 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ...........................................................................20 Introduction .......................................................................................................................20 Theoretical Foundation: Achievement Goal Theory ........................................................20 Historical Overview ..........................................................................................................22 Past and Current Research ................................................................................................24 Summary of Findings ........................................................................................................43

SECTION 3: RESEARCH METHOD ..............................................................................46 Introduction ........................................................................................................................46 Research Design and Approach ........................................................................................47 Setting and Sample ...........................................................................................................48 Testing Instrument .............................................................................................................49 Data Collection and Analysis …………………………………………………………... 50 Participant Rights ..............................................................................................................51 Summary ............................................................................................................................51

SECTION 4: RESULTS ...................................................................................................53 Introduction ........................................................................................................................53 Description of Sample........................................................................................................53 Research Questions and Hypotheses .................................................................................54 Data Collection ..................................................................................................................55 Data Analysis and Outcomes .............................................................................................55 Summary ............................................................................................................................60

SECTION 5: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS .............62 iii

Introduction ........................................................................................................................62 Interpretation of Findings ..................................................................................................63 Possible Alternative Interpretation of Findings .................................................................65 Implications for Social Change ..........................................................................................66 A Need for Future Research ..............................................................................................67 Conclusion .........................................................................................................................68

REFERENCES .................................................................................................................70

APPENDIX A: LETTER OF COOPERATION...............................................................81 APPENDIX B: DATA USE AGREEMENT ....................................................................82

CURRICULUM VITAE ....................................................................................................85

iv

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1. Summary of Results of California Fitness Report 2003-2004 ............................16

Table 2. President’s Challenge Fitness Scores 1 st Grading Term 2009-2010...................57

Table 3. Reading and Math Averages ...............................................................................58

Table 4. Correlations for President’s Challenge, Reading Averages & Math Averages ..59

v

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1. Fifth Grade Population Ethnicity Composition 2009-1010 ...............................54

vi

SECTION 1:

INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY

Introduction The No Child Left Behind Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 (NCLB) have increased the demands on teachers to improve student achievement. NCLB (2001) is a federally mandated law which calls for “higher learning standards and increased accountability of student performance” (US Department of Education, 2001). Failure to meet NCLB (2001) guidelines can result in sanctions against the school and loss of funding. Numerous school systems have answered the demand of increased accountability by eliminating opportunities for physical activity, physical education class, and fine arts programs, allowing more time for academic learning and remediation in hopes of higher student achievement scores on standardized tests. Before the implementation of No Child Left Behind,schools provided students with an opportunity to be physically fit through daily physical education and recess; however the increased demand on higher academic achievement has decreased or eliminated some of those opportunities. A variety of repercussions have been attributed to from these changes. In 2004, there are over 9 million children classified as overweight (Burgeson, 2004). Over the past 30 years, the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased among children aged 2 to 5 years from 5.0% during 1976–1980 to 13.9% during 2003–2004 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). During the same period, the prevalence increased from 6.5% to 18.8% among young people aged 6–11 years, and 5.0% to 17.4% among those aged 12–19 years (Centers for Disease Control

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and Prevention, 2006). These rates of childhood overweight and obesity have been linked to decreased physical activity levels and increased portion sizes (Sperege, 2006). Exercise provides many physical benefits. It “helps the body build muscles, prevent heart disease and depression, reduce stress and anxiety, and may even lengthen one’s life expectancy” (Carmichael, 2007, p. 40). Physical fitness has been found to prolong longevity (citations needed here), increase bone health (citations needed here) , and decrease depression and anxiety levels (citations needed here) . Physical fitness may also promote students’ academic achievement. Lavin, Shapiro, and Weill (1992) stated that the “health of a child has an effect on his or her ability to learn and to achieve academically” (p. 37) and Cooper and Taras (2003) proposed, "health and achievement go hand in hand" (p. 23). The relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement continues to stimulate interest among physical educators, general educators, administrators, parents, and community members. Hillman (2007) pointed out that “scientists have always suspected a link between physical fitness levels and cognition” (p. 40). Despite its physical, cognitive, and social benefits, opportunities for physical fitness are being eliminated. Problem Statement In order to meet and maintain the accountability measures set by the NCLB (2001) legislation, many schools have eliminated opportunities for physical fitness to allow more time for academic instruction (AHA, 2006). “Section 9010 of the NCLB law defined ‘core academic subjects’ as English/Language Arts, Reading, Mathematics, Science, Foreign Language, Civics/Government, Economics, Arts, History, and

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Geography.” Physical and health education were not listed as core academic subjects (AAHPERD, 2005, p. 1), which increases the possibility that the subjects will be modified or eliminated (AAHPERD, 2004). This elimination may affect a student’s physical fitness and consequently, his or her academic achievement. To maintain physical fitness levels, Action for Healthy Kids suggested that physical education be included daily as part of the school curriculum (AFHK, 2006), yet only 21% of adolescents in the U.S. participate in one or more days of physical education per week (Gordon-Larsen, McMurry, & Popkin, 2000). The Shape of the Nation Report (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2006) found that 95% of parents wanted their children to participate in physical activity and physical education in grades K-12, and 81% of teachers expressed a preference for daily physical education for all students. Students also provided the reasons they enjoyed physical activity, such as maintaining their health, being outside, having fun, interacting with their peers, and competing in teams (Couturier, Chepko, & Coughlin, 2005). Yet few schools require daily physical education, and only 26 % of high schools require three or more years of physical education for graduation (USDHHS, 1996). Physical education participation by high school students has fallen, thus indicating a sharp decline in either student interest or program availability (Burgeson, 2004). Many school systems struggle with the decision to eliminate physical education elimination from their curriculum of the repercussions of those decisions. Decreased physical fitness levels, overweight, and obesity often result when students have few opportunities to be physically active; these physical symptoms often impact student motivation, thinking, and learning (citations needed here). Examination of the

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relationship between students’ physical fitness and academic achievement may provide a new appreciation for physical education as well as a possible increase in student academic achievement (Siegal, 2006). Adolescent obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years in the United States, and one suggested reason is fewer opportunities for physical activity in the school (Koplan, Liverman, & Kraak, 2005). Pediatric obesity rates are considered to be reaching epic proportions. The number of obese children under the age of five is estimated to be 42 million, with over 35 million of these children living in developing countries (World Health Organization, 2003). With childhood obesity having doubled in the 6-11 year old age group, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) expressed the following concern: “The magnitude of the problem has escalated dramatically since the passage of No Child Left Behind Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB, 2001), which focused on student achievement in core subjects” (2005, p.1). Core subjects are defined as reading, mathematics, science, and social studies. Noticeably missing are the subjects of physical education, health, and the arts. Students in the U.S. have continued to lag behind in academic performance when compared to their peers in other developed nations (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009). Poor academic performance has prompted a renewed emphasis on core class instruction to the disadvantage of physical education (P.E.) courses. Nichols and Berliner (2007) found that administrators and school boards had narrowed the curriculum, focusing only on the core academic subjects, and forced test-preparation programs on teachers and students taking already scarce time away from authentic

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instruction. Students’ physical fitness levels and opportunities for physical activity have become a low priority in schools; this low priority has been attributed to the uncertain connection between physical fitness and academic achievement when measured by standardized tests (Story, Kaphinst, & French, 2006). With some funding dependent on achievement scores, schools are placing more emphasis on the academics. Colgan (2002) pointed out that “the pressure to raise test scores is causing some schools to de-emphasize students’ physical fitness levels and to devote more class time to academic subjects, even though the United States Surgeon General reports childhood obesity at an all-time high” (p. 61). While NCLB placed more of an emphasis on academic subjects and sought to improve “student achievement, mainly among poor and minority groups, rigorous academic curriculum and high-stakes testing have taken for granted the possible impact on the physical fitness of students” (Bloomfield & Cooper, 2003, p. 6). The current educational reform lacks clarity of purpose or understanding regarding the role of physical fitness and the possible relationship to academic achievement. While few educators would oppose the emphasis on academics, the need remains to educate children in a more holistic way, addressing both the cognitive and physiological needs of children. Linking fitness and learning is a way to ensure a comprehensive approach to educating the whole child (Laitsch, Lewallen, & McCloskey, 2005). Concerns regarding the patterns of inactivity due to elimination of daily physical activity are part of the framework for this research. Identifying and understanding these issues can only be addressed when educators decrease the emphasis on standardized testing as the most accurate measure of student achievement and focus on the social of

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issues causing the omnipresent problems associated with decreased fitness levels among school children. Nature of the Study In this quantitative study, I examined the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement. The study took place in a private day school in a metropolitan area of Georgia, located in the southeastern United States. Previous research efforts have attempted to examine this relationship using the FITNESSGRAM (Meredith & Welk, 2005) battery of tests, the PACER test, and standardized achievement, such as the Stanford Achievement Test – 10, the Illinois Standardized Achievement Test (ISAT), and the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) (California Department of Education, 2006). Quantitative studies that have examined the relationship between students’ physical fitness and academic achievement have established some positive correlations (California Department of Education, 2006; Castelli, 2005); therefore, this study used a quantitative approach because the data was quantitative in nature. According to Creswell (2003), a quantitative approach requires the researcher to employ an inquiry strategy, such as an experiment, and collect statistical data from that experiment for comparison. The use of scores on the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test and students’ academic averages in the areas of reading and math were used to examine the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. A quasi- experimental non-equivalent groups design was preferred because assignment to a group was random. In other words, I did not control the assignment to groups through random

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assignment. In addition, quasi-experimental designs are useful in generating results for general trends (Shuttleworth, 2008). Data for the study were taken from predetermined instrument and academic averages in reading and mathematics from the first academic grading term of the 2009- 2010 school year. The instrument was the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test, which measured students’ fitness levels in five areas: mile run, the sit and reach, push- ups, shuttle run, and curl-ups (President’s Council on Physical Fitness, 2009). Quantitative data obtained from the academic averages, in reading and math, were also used. Research Questions and Hypotheses In this study, I investigated the relationship between physical fitness and academic academic achievement. The research questions and hypotheses statements are listed below. Research Question 1: Is there a relationship between physical fitness as measured by the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test and student achievement in the area of reading? Null Hypothesis 1: There is no relationship between physical fitness and student achievement in the area of reading. Alternate Hypothesis 1: There is a relationship between physical fitness and student achievement in the area of reading. Research Question 2: Is there a relationship between physical fitness as measured by the President’s Challenge and Physical Fitness Test and student achievement in the area of Math?

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Null Hypothesis 2: There is no relationship between physical fitness and student achievement in the area of math. Alternate Hypothesis 2: There is a relationship between physical fitness and student achievement in the area of math. Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement as measured by the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test and academic achievement in the areas of reading and mathematics during the first nine weeks grading period of the 2009-2010 academic grading period. Theoretical Framework Ames’ (1992) achievement goal theory (AGT) was used as the theoretical framework for this study, which suggests that those who achieve at a higher level on a physical task may carry this task-oriented approach into more cognitive, academic testing. Xiang, Bruene, and McBride (2004) suggest achievement goal theory represents an important theoretical approach to understanding student motivation and achievement in academic courses as well as physical education. Achievement goal theory posits that individuals determine personal goals in achievement settings such as the classroom, PE, and the sport. A relationship between student performance on physical fitness tasks and on academic tests, when examined through the lens of AGT, leads to a better understanding of the effects of motivational and academic disposition of the student. Because learning goals are thought to be the key factor in determining a student’s motivation, AGT explains what motivates children. Three factors interact to determine a person’s motivation: achievement goals, perceived ability, and

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achievement behavior (Woolard, 2008). Research on achievement goal theory is currently one of the most active areas of research in academic settings, as is illustrated by the number of scholarly publications (Pintrick, Conley, & Kempler, 2004; Pintrick & Schunk, 2002). Researchers have examined how different types of achievement goals relate to a host of student outcomes such as cognition, self-regulation, motivation, affect, achievement, and learning (Elliot, 1997). Achievement goal theory is composed of two orientations: outcome and and task goal orientation (Weinberg & Gould, 2003). AGT proposes people in achievement or goal-setting situations believe goals have purpose, and measure their success in relation to the way they perceive the notions of the effort and ability. According to Soares, Lemos, and Almeida (2005), “Goals are conceived of as a cognitive elaboration of needs” (p. 130), suggesting both student attitude toward motivation and disposition toward performance play an important role in the process. Achievement goals and orientations are assumed to be cognitive representations of what individuals are trying to do, or what they want to achieve, and are more specific. Sports psychologists have argued that a task orientation “more often than an outcome orientation leads to a strong work ethic” (Weinberg & Gould, 2003, p. 65). In contrast, achievement motives are implicit, less conscious, more affective, and more general regarding the arousal of the individual in all achievement situations (Thrash & Elliot, 2001). Accordingly, achievement goals and goal orientations are not motives in the classic achievement motivation tradition. Motivation is not easy to define, yet researchers have agreed that psychological needs are at the forefront of a motivational theory (Soares, Lemos, & Almeida, 2005). Skinner and Belmont (1995) studied 44 children and their patterns of attachment as it related to

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emotional security, competence, and autonomy, and found that secure adolescents exhibited more constructive motivational strategies. Self-determination has also been studied in the context of intrinsic motivation, and found to be important to both initiative and goal attainment (Deci & Ryan, 1985). The contrasting disengagement of participants’ involvement in activity may be explained by their inability to engage in it fully, often resulting in negative emotional states. There is an inherent need to feel secure in order to function at higher levels and achieve success (Deci & Ryan, 1985). It is likely children’s intellectual development is influenced through interactions with the environment; this association may clarify how development connects to physical fitness (Yongue, 1998). A helpless response to hypothetical academic failure has been linked to later tasks when the children did not know what caused the failure (citations needed here) . Children showing mastery-oriented approaches, on the other hand, attributed failure to lack of effort, remained more positive, and utilized problem-solving strategies to address failures (Erdley et al., 1997). As educators continue to prepare students for an ever-changing world, they struggle to promote physical fitness and implement mandates set by NCLB among their students. Vail (2006) argued that a sole focus on academics to the exclusion of physical fitness (or vice versa), is detrimental because students are becoming less active while overweight and obesity rates continue to rise. While important generalizations about student motivation and learning in classrooms have been determined (Carmichael, 2007; Vail, 2006; Deci & Ryan, 1985), there remains a number of important issues to resolve in future research such as how students determine their performance or mastery goals.

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According to the Georgia Performance Physical Education Standards (1997), the purpose of a physical education program is to provide students with the skills and knowledge of how to live a physically active life. These standards are presently under review; however, they are still applicable at the current time. The National Association of Sport and Physical Education has identified five goals for students through participation in physical activity: 1. Develop and maintain a health-related level of fitness. 2. Find personal meaning and enjoyment. 3. Express their uniqueness as an individual. 4. Interact positively with each other in a social setting. 5. Participate in sports and activities of our culture, both as children and adults. (GPS, 1997; NASPE, 2006). These goals aim to teach children how to be healthy and stay healthy for a lifetime; yet by eliminating opportunities for physical fitness physical educators are not providing students with the opportunity to stay healthy. The attempt to maintain accountability of physical education programs along with district, state, and national expectations of reducing obesity cannot be done if programs that promote physical fitness among students are eliminated. Reduction in programs, such as physical education, can be punitive in nature and detrimental to both the physical and academic success of students (AAPHERD, 2005). Former United States Secretary of Education Paige (2004) stated, “While No Child Left Behind puts the focus on academics – where it should be – I am disturbed by reports I hear about schools doing away with recess and sports” (AAPHERD, 2005). According to most sources, opportunities for physical activity have continued to decline in the school setting.

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Two states can be recognized for their dedication to student physical fitness and student achievement: California and Massachusetts. The state of California required local districts to adopt a wellness policy to address students’ nutritional needs, and their goals for physical fitness. The hope from this policy was to promote student health and reduce childhood obesity (CSBA, 2006). This legislation was based on a study which evaluated the interaction between physical activity and behavior. The study “found evidence that regular physical activity improved physical fitness levels among students and supported learning, it also suggested that daily P.E. classes would not detract from academic success” (CSBA, 2006, p. 2). Even though P.E. might cut into academic class time, schools that offered more opportunities for physical activity saw increased fitness levels among students and positive effects on student achievement Research conducted in Massachusetts examined the impact of increased quality physical education time on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) standardized scores (Physical Educator, 2007). The MCAS test was given to 311 fourth grade students in two Southeastern communities in Massachusetts. Participants were tested in two areas: English and Language Arts (ELA) and Math. Researchers found students who received more hours of quality physical education per school year not only scored higher in the ELA subject area of the MCAS standardized test, but also were more physically fit (Physical Educator, 2007). To adequately educate the whole child, educators must address the issue of eliminated opportunities for physical fitness and how that choice affects students physically and cognitively. There is a need to continue the study between physical fitness and academic achievement.

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Definitions of Terms The following terms were used in the study: Academic Achievement: rate of learning over a specific time period; considered to be a cumulative function of current and prior family, community, and school experiences (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). Ethnicity: a social identification based on the presumption of shared history and a common cultural inheritance (Indiana University Bloomington, 2003). Motivation: attitudes toward school and learning and enthusiasm for academic achievement. Academic drive involves measuring items such as work habits and scholastic expectations (Entwistle, 1968; Hwang, 2002). Physical Activity: any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure (World Health Organization, 2009). Physical Education: a structured opportunity to equip students with the knowledge, skills, capacities, and values along with the enthusiasm to maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood (University of North Carolina Wilmington, n.d.). Physical Fitness: ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies. Physical fitness includes a number of components consisting of cardio- respiratory endurance (aerobic power), skeletal muscle endurance, skeletal muscle strength, skeletal muscle power, flexibility, balance, speed of movement, reaction time, and body composition (Centers for Disease Control, 2006).

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Standardized Testing: testing that is administered under standardized or controlled conditions that specify where, when, how, and for how long children may respond to the questions or prompts (Goodwin and Driscoll, 1980). President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test: a program that encourages all Americans to make being active part of their everyday lives. The test recognizes students for their level of physical fitness in five events: curl-ups or partial curl-ups, shuttle run, endurance run/walk, pull-ups or right angle push-ups, and V-sit or sit and reach (President’s Council for Physical Fitness, 2008). Scope and Delimitation The study was limited to the population of 60 fifth grade students attending a private day school in a metropolitan area of Georgia in the southeastern part of the United States. In addition, this study only focused on the academic areas of reading and math, and only used the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test as a tool to measure physical fitness. Assumptions and Limitations Assumptions associated with this study included, but were not limited to:

1. All participants will have a thorough knowledge of physical education class expectations;

2. All participants will exert maximum effort during physical fitness testing;

3. All testing protocol will be administered in optimal environments; and

4. All research will be conducted in a non-partial manner.

Weaknesses of the study possibly included room temperature, eating and sleeping patterns of participants as well as their physical conditioning, overall physical and mental

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health, classroom instruction and classroom environment. I had no control over potential weaknesses. Limitations of the study included the population of 60, predominately Caucasian, students who attend a private school located in a metropolitan area of Georgia, in the southeastern United States. Only fifth grade physical education students participated in the study. I had a clearly defined working relationship with a majority of the potential participants, but this relationship was not considered to be an impediment, or bias, to the research. Study Significance This study contributed to the findings of past and future research. Implications for social change included a better understanding of the relationship between students’ physical fitness and academic achievement to administrators, teachers, parents, and students, and increased awareness of affording youngsters with increased physical activity during the school day. There was also the potential for constructive change in physical education implementation as a way to provide increased academic achievement for all students. Previous studies defied some long-standing beliefs about physical fitness and academic achievement held by many educators and administrators (Arrington, 2007). Few projects have been conducted on the effects of intense physical exercise and academic achievement (Rajic et al., 1997) because it seems people rarely associate academic abilities and physical fitness. Physical education can provide the opportunity of intense physical exercise by increasing the target heart rate, which serves as a meter to the student as to how much physical activity they are exerting. Positive correlations have

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been found between academic achievement, the FITNESSGRAM, and the PACER test (citations needed here) . Table 1 shows the 2003-04 CDE statistics for the number of 7th grade students meeting the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) for aerobic capacity and the number and percent of students meeting all six fitness standards. Table 1

Summary of Results of California Fitness Report 2003-2004 (Grade 7)

Grade 7

Physical Task Total Tested % in HFZ % not in HFZ

Aerobic Capacity 463,811 59.2 40.8

Number of Fitness Standards Achieved N % Cum. %

6 of 6 fitness standards 134,680 29.1 29.1

Students tested N %

Females 227,312 49.1

Males 236,462 50.9

No gender information 37 0.0

*Table modified from CDE 2003-2004 Fitness Report

Table 1 showed that nearly 60% of those tested achieved HFZ levels for their respective age groups and those who met the HFZ for all six tests nearly reached the 30% mark. Included in Table 1 was the percentage of participants meeting the HFZ in aerobic capacity, showing equality among girls and boys in meeting the aerobic capacity

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standards for the HFZ. The data indicated a majority of the sample population was not capable of meeting the aerobic capacity standards of the health-related PACER test. Research conducted by Shepard (1997) found no negative effects of additional exercise on students’ academic achievement. Improved behavioral and physical fitness levels were also noted among students who had extra physical activity during the school day. Hinkle suggested that people who exercise frequently, and who are more physically fit, show greater academic gains than those who do not (Hinkle, 2000). Physical fitness increases by participating in a physical education class, and as some research has suggested (citations needed here) , physical fitness could improve one’s academic achievement. Although NCLB (2001) omitted the importance of physical fitness as a part of the its core curriculum, the goal of this research was to build on past research, and expand physical education as a daily class to improve students’ physical fitness levels and academic achievement. The research effort was designed to provide empirical evidence of the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement, and to provide increased opportunities for physical activity among students. Summary A closer examination of the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement may provide insights into the ways to improve students’ academic achievement. The Surgeon General recommended that children “engage in 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week, yet estimates show that only 3.8 % of elementary schools provide daily physical education (PE)” (Lee et al., 2007, p. 435). Budgetary constraints and increasing pressure to improve standardized test scores have

Full document contains 99 pages
Abstract: Despite the research indicating a direct relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement, physical fitness levels of students are decreasing in many schools, along with opportunities for physical fitness. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement, as measured by the President's Challenge Physical Fitness Test scores and academic averages in the areas of reading and math. Achievement goal theory provided the framework for the study. The study took place in a private day school in southern U.S. states. The sample included 60 fifth grade students. To examine the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement for the sample, the independent variable was the students' fitness levels as determined by the President's Challenge Physical Fitness Test, while the dependent variable was students' academic averages in reading and math. Pearson correlational analysis revealed non-significant relationships between physical fitness and reading and physical fitness and mathematics. The non-significant findings may have been related to the small sample size and limited time frame for analysis. This study contributes to social change by identifying the link that exists in some school settings between fitness and achievement, presenting the importance of youth fitness, and challenging the elimination of fitness programs in schools.