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Active Voice: Fitness and Academic Achievement in Children — Not Necessarily a Straightforward Association

from By Stephen D. Herrmann, Ph.D. and David Hansen, Ph.D.


David Hansen, Ph.D.

Stephen D. Herrmann, Ph.D.
Viewpoints presented in SMB commentaries reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.

Stephen D. Herrmann, Ph.D., is a researcher at Sanford Research in the Children’s Health Research Center and is the director of program development and training for profile by Sanford. His research is focused on understanding individual response to exercise and diet interventions— more specifically, why certain people respond positively to exercise and diet interventions and others do not. Dr. Herrmann is a member of ACSM.

David Hansen, Ph.D., is associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Education. His expertise is on adolescent development and learning in a variety of in and out-of-school settings, including the full range of organized youth activities (e.g., extracurricular, community-based programs). This commentary presents the views of Herrmann and Hansen on the topic of their research article, which they and their colleagues published in the December 2014 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® (MSSE).

Finding an association between academic achievement and physical activity (PA) or aerobic fitness (fitness) would surprise few these days. In general, the research literature indicates higher PA and fitness tend to correlate with higher academic achievement, and vice versa. That is, children who are more physically active and those who are more aerobically fit tend to have higher academic achievement. This positive, linear association adds to a growing list of PA/fitness benefits for children’s health. But is this association of PA/fitness with academic achievement as straightforward—linear—as it seems? Is the association basically the same across subject matter? Furthermore, who benefits most academically by increased PA/fitness? These questions were the impetus for our recent publication in MSSE.

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