Bad dietary habits start young, as do most bad habits, from smoking to drug use. Good habits tend to be the same. It is known that movement on a regular basis keeps kids healthy but a new study found that physical fitness is also linked to 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 standardized test procedures. The results were that physically fit primary school pupils are more likely to make it to higher-level secondary grammar schools than children with less sporting abilities.

The data were collected based on internationally recognized and standardized, age-appropriate tests. Thus physical strength and endurance were measured according to the criteria of the FitnessGram guidelines, ability to concentrate was determined using the d2-R test and the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) was measured using the KINDL questionnaire.

Credit: LRA BGL

Boys did better on the fitness tests while girls performed better in terms of concentration and quality of life values. In all tests for physical fitness, overweight and obese children had significantly poorer results than underweight children and children with normal body weight while also having significantly poorer values for health-related quality of life on the whole, physical well-being, self-esteem as well as well-being in friendships and at school.

"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,” says Prof. Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz, Chair of Preventive Pediatrics at the Technical University of Munich. “Collaboration among parents, schools, communities and athletic clubs is very important when it comes to creating a comprehensive and appropriate range of possibilities.”