The Relationship Between Physical Activity And Physical Fitness And Educational Performance Of Rural South African Children

Por: Themane Mahlapahlapana.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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The aim of the study was to evaluate the cross-sectional relationships between physical activity and physical fitness and
educational performance of rural children of South Africa. Low educational performance of students could be attributed
to their lack of physical activity and fitness. A positive relationship of physical activity and fitness and educational
performance has been explored through several studies (Dwyer, Salis, Lazarus and Dean, 2001; Dwyer et al., 1983;
Linder, 2002; Sherphard, 1997; Tremblay et al., 2000). These studies have supported one another in suggesting that
when a substantial amount of school time is dedicated to physical activity, educational performance of students improve
(Shephard, 1997). However, there is no evidence of similar findings in the South African rural children.. The evidence
about the relationship so far is inconclusive

A total of 212 children (112 boys and 100 girls) who were drawn from the ongoing Ellisras Longitudinal Study
participated in the present study. The children in this study underwent the following physical fitness tests: standing long
jump; bent arm hang; sit ups; 10x5m shuttle run; 50 meter run; 1600 meter run; flamingo balance; sit and reach and
plate tapping. Physical activity requesting information concerning indoor and outdoor household activities, games and
sports performed during the week days and weekend days was gathered with a questionnaire. For Educational
performance children in school grades 5 to 8 performed the Initial Evaluation Test in Mathematics whilst all children
(grades 4 to 8) underwent the Second Language Achievement Test in English; which were designed by the South
African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC; 1995). These tests are standardized for all the South African


The study found no significant relationship between physical activity and physical fitness and educational performance.
This was contrary to findings from other studies which found positive associations. Unlike the present studies by Dwyer
et al (1), Dwyer et al (2), and Geron (3) found a positive relationship. Perhaps the fact that these were done in the first
world countries and among older children may explain the absence of significant results. These results have
implications for thinking about the place and duration of physical education in the school curriculum.

[1]. Dwyer, T., Coonan, W., Leitch, D., Hetzel, B., & Baghurst, R. (1983). An investigation of the effects of daily
physical activity on the health of primary school students in South Australia. International Journal of Epidemiologists,
12(3), 308-313.
[2]. Dwyer, T., Sallis, J. F., Blizzard, L., Lazarus, R., & Dean, K. (2001). Relation of Academic Performance to Physical
Activity and Fitness in Children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 13, 225-238
[3]. Geron, E. (1996). Intelligence of Child and Adolescent Participants in Sports. In The Child and Adolescent Athlete
(Vol. 6). Oxford, England: Blackwell Science Ltd

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