Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis and Dissertation

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


School of Kinesiology and Recreation

First Advisor

Kelly R. Laurson


Physical activity and weight control are predictive of childhood health, but more recent research suggests they may also be associated with academic success.

PURPOSE: To explore the relationships between physical activity, weight status, and academic performance in children.

METHODS: 614 third-to-fifth grade children (53.9% female, age 9.6 ± 0.9 years) from two Midwestern communities participated. Physical activity was assessed using a Digiwalker 200-SW pedometer worn for seven consecutive days. Teachers provided an estimate of general academic performance, and children were categorized into three performance groups (high, moderate, low). School behavior (attentiveness, staying on task, interruptive behavior) was assessed by the teacher. Weight status (normal weight, overweight, obese) was determined by body mass index percentile. Logistic regression was used to analyze the relationships among physical activity, weight status, self-reported parental education level, and academic performance.

RESULTS: Approximately 1 in 3 children were overweight or obese (29.6%). Nearly half (44.6%) of the subjects averaged ≥ 12,000 steps per day, meeting physical activity recommendations. A crude logistic model revealed obesity was predictive and physical

activity was not predictive of being in the moderate/low academic performance groups, odds ratio (OR [95% CI]) = 1.88 (1.1-3.3) and 1.0 (0.7-1.4), respectively. However, parental education was a stronger predictor, where those with parents that attended high school, some college, or obtained a two-year college degree being more likely to be in the moderate/low academic performance group, OR = 3.1 (1.5-6.5), 2.9 (1.6-5.2), and 2.4 (1.3-4.4), respectively. In a full model, including weight status, physical activity, and parental education, the latter attenuated the impact of obesity. Parental education remained significant, OR = 3.0 (1.4-6.2), 2.8 (1.5-5.0), and 2.3 (1.2-4.2) for those who attended high school, some college, and obtained two-year degree, respectively. In a full model, including physical activity, weight status, parental education, and school behavior variables, not meeting physical activity recommendations was predictive of less interruptive behavior, whereas those with parents who attended high school were more likely to interrupt others, OR= 0.7 (0.5-0.9) and 2.1 (1.1-4.2), respectively.

CONCLUSION: Weight status, and not physical activity, was predictive of academic performance, with obese children being approximately two-times less likely to receive higher grades compared to normal weight children. When accounting for parental education, neither weight status nor objectively measured physical activity were associated with grade-school performance. Though physical activity was not associated with academic performance overall, less active children were less likely to disturb others. However, parental education level was the strongest predictor of grade-school performance and classroom behavior in all analyses.


Imported from ProQuest Panfil_ilstu_0092N_10490.pdf

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