How is it defined?
Physical fitness is related to one’s ability to perform physical activity, which is defined as any movement of the body that results in energy being expended (Caspersen, Powell, & Christenson, 1985). Participation in physical activity is associated with many health benefits, including enhanced mental and physical health (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011). Similarly, a healthy diet plays a major role in a child’s physical and mental growth and development (Perez-Rodrigo & Aranceta, 2001).
The Learning Bar’s framework on physical health outcomes includes measures of nutrition, physical fitness, risky behaviours, and sexual health. Nutrition and physical fitness include measures of student diet, physical activity, and weight.
Why is it important?
- Healthy eating and physical activity habits during the school years track into adulthood (Craigie, Lake, Kelly, Adamson, & Mathers, 2011).
- There is an association between childhood obesity and poor academic performance (Wu, Chen, Yang, & Li, 2017).
- Physical activity has a significant positive effect on students` academic achievement (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011).
- Proper nourishment and a healthy breakfast contribute to student performance at school (Taras, 2005).
How do we measure it?
In Tell Them From Me®, in both the primary and secondary school surveys, students are asked about the foods they ate the previous day and how much time they spend during a typical weekday doing both intense and moderate physical activities. The results are reported as “the percentage of students meeting daily nutrition”, “the percentage of students eating less than 5 sweet or fatty foods per day”, “the number of hours per day spent doing moderate physical activity”, and “the number of hours per day spent doing intense physical activity”.
Students are also asked to report their height and weight and, at the secondary level, how they would describe their weight (e.g., slightly underweight, about the right weight). Measures of overweight and obesity are calculated based on each child’s age, sex, and reported height and weight. The results are reported as “the percentage of children who are overweight or obese”.
Caspersen, C. J., Powell, K. E., & Christenson, G. M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: Definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Reports, 100(2), 126-131.
Craigie, A. M., Lake, A. A., Kelly, S. A., Adamson, A. J., & Mathers, J. C. (2011). Tracking of obesity-related behaviours from childhood to adulthood: A systematic review. Maturitas, 70(3), 266-284.
Fedewa, A. L., & Ahn, S. (2011). The effects of physical activity and physical fitness on children's achievement and cognitive outcomes: A meta-analysis. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82(3), 521-535.
Perez-Rodrigo, C., & Aranceta, J. (2001). School-based nutrition education: Lessons learned and new perspectives. Public Health Nutrition, 4(1A), 131-139.
Taras, H. (2005). Nutrition and student performance at school. Journal of School Health, 75(6), 199-213.
Wu, N., Chen, Y., Yang, J., & Li, F. (2017). Childhood obesity and academic performance: The role of working memory. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(611), https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00611