Read more of The Shape We're In
PARKERSBURG -- In 2005, Wood County school nurse Karen Northrup wanted to show that a child performs better academically if that child is physically fit.
"There was an easy way to do that: compare fifth-graders' scores on the FITNESSGRAM and their BMI with their academic scores on the WESTEST standardized achievement test, to see how they correlate," she said.
The FITNESSGRAM is a yearly test of each child's physical fitness. Body mass index is measure of fat calculated from a person's weight and height.
Northrup joined forces with Dick Wittberg, Mid Ohio Valley Health Department director and Lesley Cottrell, a West Virginia University pediatric researcher. Seven years later, they have published four major research papers full of hard data, with three interrelated major findings:
"That means that the shape you're in is more important than the shape you are," Wittberg said. An overweight child who is physically fit will score better academically, as a rule, than a "healthy weight" child who is not fit.