Find out how fitness can help you achieve good grades!
A study of about 500 Hamilton students shows a clear connection between better fitness levels and better school performance.
Whether it was reading, writing or mathematics, children in the highest fitness level had significantly higher grades than children in the least-fit category. The difference was about one partial grade mark, equal to, say, a B improving to a B+, for example.
The study, unveiled Tuesday, was led by Brian Timmons, research director of McMaster University’s Child Health and Exercise Medicine Program, in conjunction with Start2Finish, a Burlington-based charity dedicated to fighting the cycle of child poverty in Canada.
Child obesity and a decline in childhood physical activity are seen as growing problems in Canada.
“Twenty or 30 years ago, we used to do fitness testing in schools and you used to get a badge,” said Timmons. “The pendulum has swung so far the other way.
“We need to find the right balance and think of school as a place of wellness for the child and integrating active opportunities.
“But I also see a culture shift,” Timmons added. “People are recognizing there’s a problem and they want to do something about it.”
The study involved about 500 students from 19 elementary schools across Hamilton, divided into two groups. Those in the control group were measured for general fitness level and then carried on with their normal physical activity routine.
The other group participated regularly in the 20/20 Challenge at school, a fitness endurance program that involves a series of 20metre timed sprints.
Academic results were then obtained from end-of-year report cards.
“The novelty was actually using the grades right off the report cards,” said Timmons.
“Anecdotally, we heard from teachers that attention increased and they just found differences in the kids’ attitudes and behaviours who were doing the 20/20 challenge.”
As the study results were being revealed at the Central branch of the Hamilton Public Library, hundreds of f amilies lined up in Jackson Square to take advantage of free backpacks and school supplies that were being handed out by the Start2Finish charity.
“It really gives them a good start to the school year and we’re very, very supportive,” said Pat Daly, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.
“Unfortunately, many young people in our school communities simply don’t have the resources to get the kind of materials they need to do well in school,” Daly added. “This kind of program really gives them the boost they need.”
John Malloy, director of education for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, noted that the board has a significant percentage of f amilies struggling financially.
“We do everything we can to level the playing field and this is one example,” Malloy said. “We have to look at the systemic issue — why is this happening and how might we be able to work as a community?
“This isn’t just a school board thing or two school boards, it’s about all of us figuring out how to change the system.”
Start2Finish was founded by Brian Warren, a former CFL linebacker.
As he discussed the findings of the fitness study, Warren highlighted Metroland News Service’s groundbreaking Code Red series, which has shown the strong connections between poor health, poverty and poor social outcomes, such as education.
“You saw Code Red a few years ago and we believe this is a continuation of what has been started,” said Warren.
He also implored the federal government to implement the 20/20 challenge in every school across the country “so that we can get our children moving.”