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Individual-Level Fitness and Absenteeism in New York City Middle School Youths, 2006–2013
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    Prev Chronic Dis
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    Youth health-related fitness positively affects academic outcomes, although limited research has focused on the relationship between fitness and school absenteeism. We examined the longitudinal association between individual children’s fitness and lagged school absenteeism over 4 years in urban middle schools.


    Six cohorts of New York City public school students were followed from grades 5 through 8 (school years 2006–2007 through 2012–2013; n = 349,381). A 3-level longitudinal generalized linear mixed model was used to test the association of change in fitness composite percentile scores and 1-year lagged child-specific days absent.


    Adjusted 3-level negative binomial models showed that students with a more than 20% increase, 10% to 20% increase, less than 10% increase or decrease, and 10% to 20% decrease in fitness from the year prior had 11.9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 7.2–16.8), 6.1% (95% CI, 1.0–11.4), 2.6% (95% CI, −1.1 to 6.5), and 0.4% (95% CI, −4.3 to 5.4) lower absenteeism compared with students with a more than 20% fitness decrease.


    Cumulative effects of fitness improvement could have a significant impact on child absenteeism over time, particularly in high-need subgroups. Future research should examine the potential for school-based fitness interventions to reduce absenteeism rates, particularly for youths who have fitness drop-offs in adolescence.

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