Better Health, Better Learning Report - July 2017 SCORE Better Health Better Learning Report_July 20 - Page 7

not participate in a physical activity-oriented afterschool program, active students had improved brain function. Groups of students who participated in both moderate and vigorous physical activity experienced this enhanced mental functioning. Based on these findings, the study’s authors determined, “Aerobic activity may prove to be an important method of enhancing aspects of children’s mental functioning that are central to cognitive development.” 14 A study released in 2012 looked at students’ obesity or physical fitness and academic achievement. Researchers followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that those who were obese throughout that period scored lower on math tests than non-obese children. 15 This pattern held even after the researchers took into account factors that can influence both body size and test scores such as family income, race, and parental education level and job status. In addition to physical activity, students need quality nutrition to develop and achieve. For example, students who participate in free school breakfast programs are more likely to be on time to school, less likely to be absent, and more likely to have better attention, behavior, math grades, and standardized test scores than students from similar income backgrounds who do not regularly eat breakfast. 16 A study that analyzed a healthy eating campaign that banned junk food from schools and introduced healthier, freshly prepared school meals found that participating students scored higher on English and science tests than students who did not take part in the campaign. 17 6