March 06, 2019
2 min read

Better CV fitness confers reduced absenteeism in middle school students

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Improvements in CV fitness in high-poverty middle school students, particularly girls, may lead to reduced absenteeism, according to data presented at the American Heart Association’s EPI-Lifestyle Scientific Sessions.

Emily M. D’Agostino, DrPH, MS, MEd, MA, of the Miami-Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, and colleagues sought to study the effects of poverty measures of longitudinal fitness-absenteeism relationship.

“In a previous study we found a strong relationship between middle schoolers’ health-related fitness improvement and school absenteeism reduction,” D’Agostino said in a press release. “In this study, we looked specifically at whether the fitness-absenteeism relationship changed in middle schoolers exposed to different types of poverty.”

D’Agostino and colleagues analyzed data from the New York City Fitnessgram system from 2006 to 2013 focusing on sixth- to eighth-grade students enrolled in public schools in New York City for 2 consecutive years.

Analyses were stratified by student, school, neighborhood poverty measures and sex, the researchers wrote.

There were 360,743 students (67% black or Hispanic; 51% boys; 69% qualified for free/reduced price school meals) in the study sample.

In the adjusted estimates, the highest magnitude of effects of inverse-dose response fitness-absenteeism relationship on youth attending schools was in high-poverty neighborhoods (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = –0.12 in girls; 95% CI, –0.2 to –0.04; IRR = –0.13 in boys; 95% CI, –0.29 to 0.03), the researchers wrote.

Girls attending schools with a high proportion of students qualifying for free/reduced school meals (IRR = –0.11; 95% CI, –0.23 to –0.01) also had among the greatest magnitude of effect from the relationship between fitness and absenteeism.

“We found that children who started the study as chronically absent were no longer missing enough school to be at high risk for the negative factors associated with chronic absenteeism, such as substance abuse, increased rates of teen pregnancy or juvenile delinquency,” D’Agostino said in the release.

“Future research should examine the potential for distinct youth physical activity interventions tailored to the individual, school and neighborhood levels to reduce school absenteeism associated with poverty,” D’Agostino and colleagues wrote in an abstract. – by Earl Holland Jr.


D’Agostino EM, et al. Abstract 018. Presented at: EPI-Lifestyle Scientific Sessions; March 5-8, 2019; Houston.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.