Academic achievement and inhibitory control
How are academic achievement and inhibitory control associated with physical fitness, soil-transmitted helminth infections, food insecurity and stunting among South African primary schoolchildren? News from the KaziAfya project
Cardiovascular fitness has been associated with both executive function and academic achievement in multiple cohort studies including children and adolescents. However, research is scarce among children from low- and middle-income countries. Data in this cross-sectional study draw from the KaziAfya project and were assessed via questionnaires, stool samples, anthropometric measurements, 20 m shuttle run test, grip strength test, Flanker task, and school grades.
The following results have been found: Higher socioeconomic status was most closely associated with academic achievement among boys, whereas higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and not being stunted explained most variance in academic achievement in girls. Higher age turned out to be associated with better performance in the Flanker task. Additionally, in boys, higher grip strength was associated with better information processing and inhibitory control of attention, whereas in girls, higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels were positively associated with these cognitive abilities.
Academic performance has been shown to be compromised in schoolchildren living in marginalised areas, compared to schoolchildren in less disadvantaged parts of South Africa. The present study suggests that cardiorespiratory fitness and grip strength are two potentially modifiable factors that are associated with children’s academic achievement and cognitive performance, and that should be targeted in future school-based interventions. This study was funded by the Fondation Botnar and can be read in detail in the journal BMC Public Health :
Gerber, M., Lang, C., Beckmann, J., du Randt, R., Gall, S., Seelig, H., Long, K., Ludyga, S., Müller, I., Nienaber, M., Nqweniso, S., Pühse, U., Steinmann, P., Utzinger, J. and Walter, C.: How are academic achievement and inhibitory control associated with physical fitness, soil-transmitted helminth infections, food insecurity and stunting among South African primary schoolchildren?. BMC Public Health 21, 852 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10779-9