Within a fast-growing and advanced modern society, the tendency towards a healthy lifestyle became a significant part of the everyday life of an average person. Physical fitness, including “aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, and motor skills” both in childhood and adolescence, anticipates crucial health aspects later on in life (Syväoja, Kankaanpää, Joensuu, Kallio, Hakonen, Hillman, and Tammelin, 2019, p. 2050). Based on the several research studies, one may suggest that fitness is a key contributor to academic achievement in adolescents, considering that the modern lifestyle in industrialized society comprises a prevalence of screen-media and junk food consumption. Therefore, it is essential to attain the increased level of physical culture among the current population due to its strong interrelation with academic achievement. With this said, this paper examines the relationship between fitness and learning attainments of different-age individuals to expand knowledge on its direct interconnection.
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The Present Context of Decreased Physical Activity
The rising trend of decreased physical fitness among adolescents poses critical challenges for modern society resulting in poorer physical health and deficient academic achievement. More specifically, obesity has become a vital societal concern among the global population due to its severely increased cases, leading to worsening health outcomes among children and adolescents across industrialized nations. The increased exposure to media outlets inevitably plays an essential role in the current situation with an epidemic of childhood and adolescent obesity. According to Álvarez-Bueno, Hillman, Cavero-Redondo, Sánchez-López, Pozuelo-Carrascosa, and Martínez-Vizcaíno (2020), there is a strong correlation between the physical activity rates and aerobic fitness level. The drastic decrease in physical health affects one’s fitness level, which serves as an entrenched marker of cardiovascular health and mental well-being. In addition, rising scientific evidence supports the interconnection between aerobic fitness and scholastic achievement among school-aged children (Álvarez-Bueno et al., 2020). To be more specific, children who maintain a higher fitness level can perform better on academic achievement tests compared to their peers with lower levels of fit.
Current Research Findings
The current research studies indicate that increasing physical culture is crucial to facilitating academic performance. PA is proved to be the most efficient in improving educational performance in mathematics and reading as they are directly dependent on the executive function. The executive function and healthy brain activity underlie educational performance and encompass fundamental cognitive functions associated with attention and memory, which foster the learning process. A number of experimental studies are mainly conducted with a particular emphasis on mathematics. The researchers argue that physical training can considerably improve the executive function, which impacts “inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility” (Barbosa, Whiting, Simmonds, Scotini Moreno, Mendes, and Breda, 2020, p. 5989). Also, the improvement of cognitive skills, such as visuospatial skills, rapid automatized naming, and memory, can significantly enhance the arithmetic learning achievements.
Factors Impacting the Linkage between PA and Academic Performance
Nevertheless, there are important factors that need to be considered in analyzing and evaluating the relationship between fitness and educational performance. First, there is a correlation between physical education, academic performance, and age rate. As described by Álvarez-Bueno et al. (2020), the analysis by age category demonstrated that the relationship between fitness and learning achievement is stronger in younger children compared to adolescents. This is particularly relevant in terms of language- and reading-related skills, as well as mathematics competencies. However, the process of maturation during the puberty period appears to play a more pivotal role than chronological age regarding brain functioning and cognitive development in relation to aerobic fitness levels. To be more specific, the commencement of puberty comprises a set of critical changes on physical, psychological, and behavioral levels that can directly alter the relationship between PA and scholastic attainments of a student.
Also, the PA and educational performance linkage is strongly affected by gender. The gender inequalities can be illustrated explicitly within the greater increase in muscle mass in boys during puberty. The common differences between boys and girls are independent of general intelligence; however, they are concerned with other aspects, including self-regulation and motivation, shaping one’s academic achievements. Most importantly, the positive correlation between regular fitness training and improved learning outcomes is based on several crucial mechanisms inside the human body. Aerobic fitness is proved to promote brain architecture among children by facilitating “structural changes in the cortex, basal ganglia, and the hippocampus” and increasing white matter integrity (Álvarez-Bueno et al., 2020, p. 587). Moreover, physical culture helps promote neurogenesis through higher levels of “BDNF, cerebral blood flow, and promotes synaptogenesis and angiogenesis” (Álvarez-Bueno et al., 2020, p. 587). Such critical changes in the brain structure improve its functioning and positively influence specific cognitive functions that are closely intertwined with academic success.
Physical fitness is an inherent part of health‐related attributes impacting the academic achievements in adolescence. A student faces significant developmental changes on biological and behavioral levels, which encourages simultaneous alterations in academic performance and physical activity in youth. Understanding such a fundamental relationship between PA and academic accomplishments is crucial for general public health knowledge during this period. Thus, it is crucial to adopt health regulation policies with a particular emphasis on physical culture in educational settings to prepare students with greater resources for learning and independence from environmental conditions or teachers’ help.
Álvarez-Bueno, C., Hillman, C. H., Cavero-Redondo, I., Sánchez-López, M., Pozuelo-Carrascosa, D. P., & Martínez-Vizcaíno, V. (2020). Aerobic fitness and academic achievement: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 38(5), 582–589. Web.
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Barbosa, A., Whiting, S., Simmonds, P., Scotini Moreno, R., Mendes, R., & Breda, J. (2020). Physical activity and academic achievement: An umbrella review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(16), 5972–6001. Web.
Syväoja, H. J., Kankaanpää, A., Joensuu, L., Kallio, J, Hakonen, H., Hillman, C. H., & Tammelin, T. H. (2019). The longitudinal associations of fitness and motor skills with academic achievement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51(10), 2050–2057.