"Aerobic fitness was even more strongly related to the children's test scores than obesity, which was significantly related," Cottrell said. "That is a very important finding."
"It is more important to get kids fit than to get them to lose pounds," Wittberg said. If children become fit, weight loss will follow.
"It says that, if you can get a child more fit, you stand a good chance of improving that child's academic performance, no matter what the child's weight is," Cottrell said.
At a time when schools are cutting back on P.E. and recess to drill children for the WESTEST, "that has immediate policy implications for the state," she said. "This research shows we're going in the wrong direction in terms of the structure of our school day. Children need more physical activity, not less."
The three have presented their research at national conferences of the American Heart Association, the National Association of School Nurses, and the American Public Health Association. They also presented to the West Virginia Board of Education.
"I have been influenced by their work," said state Superintendent Jorea Marple. "They gave us homegrown research that confirms what researchers in other states and around the world have found is also true in West Virginia."
Reach Kate Long at 304-348-1798 or katel...@wvgazette.com.
"The Shape We're In" was written with the help of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships http://www.reportingonhealth.org/, at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.