TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- A statewide initiative to link physical activity to classroom performance is giving schools the good news they wanted to hear.
A little bit of sweat, some hustle, endurance and flexibility are improving how kids perform in school.
"Students who score in the healthy fit zone tend to score a higher percentage above standard in reading and math and miss fewer days of school," Project Director for Health Kansas Schools Mark Thompson told 13 News.
More than 650 schools around Kansas, including Seaman Middle School, are participating in K-Fit, a program implemented in part by the Kansas State Department of Education.
At least four times a year, students go through a series of fitness tests to measure aerobic capacity, strength and flexibility. The results are then linked to their academic test scores.
The press release for the announcement Thursday read:
"The results concluded that the odds of being above math and reading performance standards were significantly higher among students who met fitness standards in all five fitness tests compared to those who did not. For student who met fitness standards for zero to one fitness tests, 50.4 an d 41.8 percent scored above standard on reading and math assessments, respectively. In comparison, among students who met fitness standards for all five fitness tests, 73.5 and 70.3 percent scored above standard on reading and math assessments, respectively."
Thompson said they had to address the problem that fitness is diminishing among students, and that most people still hold onto old-school concepts of physical education class in schools. That's why P.E. teachers are trained through K-Fit to administer the tests.
Thompson said results gathered from participating schools in 2011 through 2012, as well as continued physical testing, supports the finding.
"The students start getting the message that they need to be physically active."
The students agree.
"I think being healthier makes you happy and it makes your more dedicated to the classroom and more obligated to get your work done and get better grades," 8th grader Kaden Henley said.
Fellow 8th grader Katy Mulqueen says her classmates don't look forward to the running, called the "Pacer," all the time, but they know it's helping.
"I think it helps a lot," Mulqueen said. "I play other sports, and I know I get better in those. I really think with sports I always want to go to school to go to practice, and I think it helps me be more motivated to keep my grades up."
KSDE is analyzing the data from 56,000 students last year, and hopes to expand to 900 schools statewide.
K-Fit is funded by the Kansas Health Foundation and supported by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
More details on K-Fit can be found at www.kshealthykids.org