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New Study Shows Positive Relationship Between Physical Fitness and Academic Test Scores among Kansas Students

New data affirms importance of physical activity in and out of school

TOPEKA, Kan., Jan. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) and Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) today announced the results of a new study funded by the Kansas Health Foundation that indicate, on average, students who are physically fit score above standard on Kansas state assessments in reading and math and miss fewer days of school.

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In 2011, the Healthy Kansas Schools program, a partnership between KSDE and KDHE, began a statewide initiative to track and improve fitness in Kansas schools. This initiative, called Kansas Fitness Information Tracking (K-FIT), links fitness test results using a fitness assessment tool called FitnessGram® with academic performance of students in grades 4-9.

The findings, released at a news conference at Seaman Middle School in Topeka today, highlight aggregate, de-identified data from more than 13,000 students in grades 4-9 during the 2011-2012 school year. The FitnessGram® tests, which measure aerobic capacity, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility, determine whether students are in a "healthy fitness zone" for their age and gender.

The results concluded that the odds of being above math and reading performance standards were significantly higher among students who met fitness standards in all five fitness tests compared to those who did not. For students who met fitness standards for zero to one fitness tests, 50.4 and 41.8 percent scored above standard on reading and math assessments, respectively. In comparison, among students who met fitness standards for all five fitness tests, 73.5 and 70.3 percent scored above standard on reading and math assessments, respectively.

"We remain focused on improving the health of Kansas children and making strides in their reading levels. By examining the K-FIT information, we have an opportunity to positively impact the lives of Kansas children and future generations in a variety of ways. I encourage our kids, as well as my adult peers, to never give up on their fitness goals," said Governor Sam Brownback.

"Encouraging fitness and healthy eating within our Kansas schools has always been a priority for us," said Dr. Diane DeBacker, Kansas Commissioner of Education, KSDE, "and this report further emphasizes the critical role USDA's revised school nutrition standards and programs like Healthy Kansas Schools and Team Nutrition play in the overall learning success of students.  We recognize that schools provide one of the most important venues for modeling consistent, healthy behaviors for students of all ages, and we're committed to ensuring this is happening."

"Exercise has a tremendous impact on the growing brain. We've known for years that increased physical activity and a good diet are important to help children stay focused, stay alert and learn better. This data reinforces the national trends we're seeing are certainly true for our children in Kansas," said Dr. Robert Moser, Secretary and State Health Officer, KDHE. K-FIT is funded by the Kansas Health Foundation (KFH), whose mission is to improve the health of all Kansans. Up to 900 schools can be funded for the K-FIT project, and to date, more than 650 are actively participating. The program is part of a partnership between KSDE, KDHE and KHF.

"The evidence is clear – we must prioritize getting our kids active in all schools across Kansas whether it includes after-school programs, active recess, quality P.E. classes or broadly an increased culture of activity," said Steve Coen, President and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation.

This announcement is part of a new collaboration between Healthy Kansas Schools and KHF to facilitate a pattern of healthy behaviors among the youth in Kansas and pave the way for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. KHF supports a number of school-based wellness initiatives centered around making the school buildings and districts across the state healthy environments for our children. This includes K-FIT, Let's Move! Active Kansas Schools, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, School Health Profiles and local school wellness policies.

Kansas Fitness Information Tracking (K-FIT) is a Healthy Kansas Schools project funded by the Kansas Health Foundation. In 2013, KSDE, through an extensive data agreement contract, provided KDHE de-identified student data that included FitnessGram test results, reading and math scores, absences, and demographic information for statistical analysis in accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. For more information about K-FIT, visit here. The goals of K-FIT are to enhance the understanding of the relationships between various fitness measures and individual academic indicators and to further validate the importance of physical education and physical activity to the academic mission of schools. Any school or district interested in participating in K-FIT can contact Mark Thompson, [email protected] or Jennifer Church, [email protected].

Miranda Steele, KDHE, 785-260-3168, [email protected]

Denise Kahler, KSDE, 785-393-1839, [email protected]

Blythe Thomas, KHF, 703-625-6785, [email protected]

SOURCE Kansas Health Foundation

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