Physically fit elementary- and middle-school students perform better academically than their out-of-shape classmates, according to a study carried out in the New York City school system.
The report found that students who placed in the top third of the school system's fitness scale had higher math and reading scores on average than students in the bottom third.
In particular, the kids who rated among the top 5 percent for fitness — on measures that included strength and aerobic capacity — scored an average of 36 percentage points higher on state reading and math tests in 2007-08 than did the least-fit 5 percent.
"The clear associations between fitness and academic achievement highlighted in the report underline the importance of educating the whole child," said Santiago Taveras, an interim schools deputy chancellor.
Despite the importance of the link between mind and body, there has been only a slight improvement in the city's childhood obesity rates since 2003.
According to Department of Health data, the percentage of obese kids edged downward through 2008, from 24 to 21 percent, while the percentage of overweight kids declined even less — from 19 to 18 percent.
Those figures put the city 4 percentage points above the national average in both categories.