Physically fit primary school pupils feel better, can concentrate better, and are more likely to make it to higher-level secondary grammar schools than children who do less sport.
This has been confirmed for the first time in a study by the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
The study found that movement on a regular basis keeps kids healthy and fit for school.
And although the benefits of sports have been demonstrated in numerous studies, the research team at the TUM has taken this further with proof of the correlation between physical fitness, concentration and health-related quality of life for primary school pupils.
The study involved 3,285 girls and 3,248 boys from Bavaria’s Berchtesgadener Land district. The key criteria were physical strength and endurance, the ability to concentrate, and health-related quality of life, as determined by the scientists according to internationally standardised test procedures.
The results of the study show that the higher the level of children’s physical fitness, the better they can concentrate and the higher their health-related quality of life. While the boys did better on the fitness tests, the girls performed better in terms of concentration and quality-of-life values.
At the same time, in all tests for physical fitness, overweight and obese children had significantly poorer results than underweight children and children with normal body weight. Obese children also had significantly poorer values for health-related quality of life, physical wellbeing and self-esteem, as well as wellbeing in friendships and at school.
Another important result of the study, according to Prof. Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz, is that “primary school pupils with good physical fitness and a good ability to concentrate are more likely to make it to secondary grammar schools.” Prof. Oberhoffer-Fritz holds the TUM Chair of Preventive Paediatrics and is Dean of the TUM Department of Sport and Health Sciences.
Prof. Oberhoffer-Fritz added: “This means it’s all the more important to encourage motor development in children at an early stage, since this can also have a positive impact on the development of mental fitness.
“Collaboration among parents, schools, communities and athletic clubs is very important when it comes to creating a comprehensive and appropriate range of possibilities.”
Dr Thorsten Schulz, head of the study team at TUM, said: “Based on the results of the study, since 2019 the Berchtesgadener Land District Administration Office has been giving all first grade pupils in the region a voucher for a one year membership in a sports club. This is a great example for how different stakeholders can work together and help motivate children to be more athletically active.”
In a further study, the research team also investigated older children and young adults at secondary schools. An additional scientific publication based on these data is planned for a later date.