Examining the impact of physical activity time on physical fitness and academic achievement among 3rd graders



Complex intersections exist between physical activity, academics, and fitness which operate between research, policy, and practice. Perhaps one of the most researched intersections considers whether school-aged children perform better academically when there is time dedicated to physical activity. To date, no research has investigated the impact of the three most commonly observed weekly physical activity periods (135, 225, and 300 minutes) in Texas public schools on academic achievement and physical fitness performance measures. Applying an ecological multilevel perspective, such as that found in socio-ecological modeling (SEM), is crucial to gaining a holistic understanding of policy and practice and how they shape and affect student engagement with physical activity. The study employed an ex-post facto, causal-comparative research design. The characteristics-present group received 135 minutes of physical activity while the two comparison groups engaged in 225 and 300 weekly minutes respectively. Subjects were recruited from three elementary schools, hereafter referred to as Schools A, B, and C, in an urban school district in South Texas. The non-probability sample consisted of 70, 49, and 63 third graders in these schools, respectively. School C, which had the highest weekly minutes of physical activity had the lowest academic achievement scores in mathematics and reading. With respect to fitness performance, although some statistically significant differences were found among the schools, no uniform pattern was noted, suggesting the randomness of the findings. Even though the results of this study are mixed and do not conform to existing literature, it is hard to argue that increased physical activity time does not influence increased academic achievement and fitness performance. The bigger picture to be taken from this is that physical activity/education programs may not have the oversight necessary to ensure how and when students actually receive physical activity. District and campus administrators might also glean from this study that their actions, attitudes, and decisions about physical activity can have a very direct impact on how their students engage in physical activity, as delineated through SEM.



educational leadership, physical activity time, physical education, policy, social-ecological model



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