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Open AccessArticle

Physical Fitness Predicts Subsequent Improvement in Academic Achievement: Differential Patterns Depending on Pupils’ Age

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Department of Physical Education and Sport, University of Madeira, 9000 Funchal, Portugal
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LARSYS, Interactive Technologies Institute, 9000 Funchal, Portugal
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Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability, University of Geneva, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland
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Saint Joseph of Cluny Higher School of Nursing, 9000 Funchal, Portugal
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Health Administration Institute, Secretary of Health of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, 9000 Funchal, Portugal
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CIPER, Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade de Lisboa, 1000 Lisbon, Portugal
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ISAMB, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Lisboa, 1000 Lisbon, Portugal
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Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES—Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland
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Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 8874; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12218874
Received: 27 September 2020 / Revised: 15 October 2020 / Accepted: 23 October 2020 / Published: 26 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Activity and Sustainable Health)
We investigated the longitudinal relationship between physical fitness (flexibility, functional strength, and running speed-agility components) and subsequent change in academic achievement across one school year. We also examined whether this longitudinal relationship differed as a function of pupils’ age, controlling for sex, body mass index, and socioeconomic status. Academic achievement in terms of marks in Portuguese and mathematics was recorded from 142 pupils (M = 14.59 years; SD = 1.99, range 11–18), between autumn 2017 and summer 2018. The physical fitness components, including flexibility, functional strength, and running speed-agility, were assessed at the baseline (i.e., at the beginning of the school year). Latent change score modelling revealed that higher physical fitness level at baseline significantly predicted a subsequent improvement in academic achievement across the school year. This longitudinal relationship was significantly stronger in younger compared to older pupils. Physical fitness and its interaction with age predicted 45.7% of the variance in the change in academic achievement. In conclusion, a better physical fitness profile including flexibility, functional strength, and running speed-agility explains a subsequent improvement in academic achievement. This longitudinal relationship seems to be age-dependent. View Full-Text
Keywords: physical conditioning; academic success; youth; physical education physical conditioning; academic success; youth; physical education
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Gouveia, É.R.; Gouveia, B.R.; Marques, A.; Lopes, H.; Rodrigues, A.; Peralta, M.; Kliegel, M.; Ihle, A. Physical Fitness Predicts Subsequent Improvement in Academic Achievement: Differential Patterns Depending on Pupils’ Age. Sustainability 2020, 12, 8874.

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