A Comparison of BMI and Aerobic Fitness in Gifted vs. non-Gifted Children  Paper

Presenter: Birgitta Baker
Author(s): Birgitta Baker, (Louisiana State University, USA), Joan Landry (Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA), Alex Garn, (School of Kinesiology, Louisiana State University, USA)

The majority of children in the US do not engage in sufficient physical activity to attain acceptable levels of health-related physical fitness (HRPF), leaving them vulnerable to chronic disease and premature mortality. Popular stereotypes in the US and some other countries perpetuate the view of an inverse relationship between athletic prowess and academic achievement. Research suggests, however, that this stereotype does not reflect reality. Higher fitness and sport participation have been associated with higher academic achievement in some studies and various mechanisms for the observed associations have been proposed. Additionally, a small body of research has found that gifted children have higher levels of sport participation than the general population. Research examining HRPF measures among gifted children is limited. This study compared BMI and aerobic capacity, two key markers of HRPF, in gifted vs. non-gifted children attending public school in a Southern US State. Height, weight, and aerobic capacity (using the FITNESSGRAM© PACER test) of 12,966 students in grades 1-7 (52% Female; 45% Black, 43% White) were measured by physical education teachers. Each child was classified as gifted or non-gifted based on data provided by the school district that the child attended. About two-thirds of the students were low socioeconomic status (SES), defined as eligibility for free or reduced lunch (185% of the US federal poverty line). BMI was calculated from height and weight and converted to BMI percentiles using the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria. Students were classified as underweight, normal, overweight, or obese based on BMI percentiles. Comparisons between gifted and non-gifted students for BMI percentile and aerobic capacity were evaluated in regression models with gender, race, SES, and age in months entered as control variables and for BMI classification using non-parametric modeling. Results indicated a need for increased HRPF among gifted and non-gifted students.