Examining the Relationship Between BMI and Academic Performance

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Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

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Evidence regarding the direct effect of weight on academic achievement is not entirely conclusive; however it is clear that overweight students face additional barriers to learning. These barriers are likely to contribute to a diminished academic performance among overweight students (Action for Healthy Kids, 2004). Although previous literature indicates links between activity preference and academic performance, as well as between activity preference and obesity (Action for Healthy Kids, 2004), it is still uncertain whether or not a direct link exists between Body Mass Index (BMI) and academic performance. The present study assesses BMI, activity preference, and early literacy development as measures of participants’ health, activity level and academic performance. BMI was calculated using the height and weight obtained from participants. The Preschool Early Literacy Indicators (PELI) assesses early literacy skills for preschool-aged children. Activity preference, as measured by Leary’s Preschool Activity Preference (2009), evaluates participants’ preference for active or sedentary activities. Participants consisted of over 400 preschool students from various preschools located in West Michigan. This current study suggests an inverse relationship between BMI and academic performance, specifically that high BMI relates to low PELI scores. In order to do so, it is first necessary to demonstrate that the positive relationship between activity preference and academic performance and the inverse relationship between activity preference and BMI exists within the current data. In demonstrating the existence of these relationships this study seeks to remove activity preference as a primary indicator of low PELI scores, suggesting instead a direct inverse relationship between high BMI and low PELI scores. If supported, this inverse relationship suggests that BMI is a primary indicator of academic performance.


This research was funded by a grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

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