The latest from the correlation is not necessarily causation department comes from the New York City DOE, who have released a report saying that physical fitness is associated with higher academic achievement. In short, kids who are obese do less well on tests and in school than kids who are more physically fit. As Deputy Chancellor Taveras said, "The clear associations between fitness and academic achievement highlighted in the report underline the importance of educating the whole child."
Let me start by saying that I am all in favor of educating the whole child. But then let me say that extra P.E. classes are not likely to boost reading levels. The kids may end up being more fit, but does that in itself actually make them smarter or better educated?
It seems much more likely to me that the parents who are ensuring that their kids are eating right and getting proper exercise are the same ones who are checking up on homework and attending parent/teacher conferences. Involved parents are involved in lots of different aspects of their children's lives and that does make a difference.
I think what's missing here is the now what? component. Should we increase physical education time? Do we try to educate kids and parents on nutrition? Do we focus academic remediation on the fat kids in the hopes that it will make them thinner?
Because the link here is only correlative (and can really only be correlative) there's not much offered in the way of next steps. In other words, it's interesting, but not particularly helpful.