The link between hunger and health can affect a child’s physical, mental health, and academic focus. However, there might be additional factors that can help contribute to a child’s performance in school.

A study by the Kansas Fitness Information Tracking initiative reveals a link between physical fitness and better performance for children on math and reading exams. The study tracked the fitness of 13,000 elementary and middle school students from 152 schools in the 2011-12 school year.

Students who met one or none of the fitness standards scored 50.4 percent and 41.8 percent above proficiency standards for math and reading. For the students who reached all five fitness test standards, scores jumped to 75.5 percent above the standard for reading and 70.3 percent for math.

Kansas Department of Education Mark Thompson said physical activity helped improve blood flow to the brain, increasing student focus and concentration.  He also noted that most of the children who took part in the study weren’t involved in extracurricular sports.

After the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act in the early 2000s, school districts decreased physical education time to focus on math and reading curriculum. School districts may want to reconsider.

“If you want students to perform better on state tests, you certainly don’t take away physical activity,” said President and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation Steve Coen.

The CDC also reports that childhood obesity has more than doubled in young children and tripled in adolescents over the past three decades. Research shows that today’s kids aren’t as physically fit as their parents were at their age. Doctors recommend elementary students receive at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to prevent the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.