The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Vision and Fitness is Key to Student Achievement

Written by
Amber Freeland
Posted in

Tuesday, Oct 09, 2018

Before our children are even born, we’re making the best efforts to set them up for success – from ensuring we take in the proper nourishment for our developing babies to selecting the best doctors for their childhood. In some cases, we already have their futures mapped out before we even know their gender or see their hair color. Yet when those same children go to school, many find themselves at a roadblock because they suffer from modifiable health conditions such as poor vision and fitness.

Research shows there can be a link to impaired vision and poor school performance. Correcting poor vision with properly prescribed glasses results in a greater impact on academic performance than any other health intervention. This has long-reaching implications in student success as the risk of failing one grade level is 3 times greater for school children who have a visual acuity below 20/20 versus children with good visual acuity.

To put it in context, students in China who wore glasses for one year earned higher test scores equivalent to six months of additional schooling, with historically under-performing students benefiting the most from vision correction.

But vision isn’t the only health issue affecting student achievement. Fitness plays a vital role in the success of students in the classroom that lasts long after they graduate. This is why FitnessGram by The Cooper Institute is the national youth fitness assessment for over 10 million students across the country. We can’t fix what we can’t measure, and studies have shown that improving physical fitness levels leads to improved academic success.

In a study of students in Mississippi, those who were in the healthy fitness zone were two-four times more likely to have high achievement in a number of areas, most notably in language arts and math.

In Massachusetts students, the odds of passing both the English and math state tests increased as the number of fitness tests passed increased. In fact, 80% of students who passed all 5 fitness tests passed both math and English tests. Comparatively, only 35% of students who failed all five fitness tests also passed the Math and English tests.

What we see from all of this is a clear indication that it is vitally important to improve both vision and fitness if we want our students to succeed. Vision screenings and fitness measurements are a good start, but to really be effective we must also provide the solutions - easier access to eye examinations and corrective eyewear as well as improved physical education programming and more time for physical activity. It’s not just for grades. Healthy, successful students mean a healthy, successful workforce later on and that’s good for all of us.