26. August 2015 · Comments Off on Can Exercise Boost Children’s Brainpower? · Categories: Health, Kid Sports

We all know that exercise is good for adults, but what about kids? It should be obvious, but it’s something that many people often overlook. Exercise is not only healthy for kids physically, but mentally as well. Let’s take a look at how exercise can boost your child’s brainpower.

 

Encourage young boys and girls to run, jump, squeal, hop and chase after each other or after erratically kicked balls, and you substantially improve their ability to think, according to the most ambitious study ever conducted of physical activity and cognitive performance in children.

The news that children think better if they move is hardly new. Recent studies have shown that children’s scores on math and reading tests rise if they go for a walk beforehand, even if the children are overweight and unfit.

But these studies were short-term or associational, meaning that they could not tease out whether fitness had actually changed the children’s’ brains or if children with well-developed brains just liked exercise.

So for the new study, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign approached school administrators at public elementary schools in the surrounding communities and asked if they could recruit the school’s 8- and 9-year-old students for an after-school exercise program.

This is a great age to test brain development in kids. Their brain chemistry is changing and growing all the time, especially around this age.

The researchers wondered whether regular exercise would improve children’s executive-function skills, providing a boost to their normal mental development.

The researchers then divided the group in half, with 110 of the children joining a wait list for the after-school program, meaning that they would continue with their normal lives and serve as a control group.

The other 110 boys and girls began being bused every afternoon to the university campus, where they participated in organized, structured bouts of what amounted to wild, childish fun.

 

Kids who develop physical skills at a young age are more likely to play organized sports when they’re older. They have more motivation to run around and play, and they are better able to improve their vertical jump — which helps develop muscle function and strength at a young age.

The program lasted for a full school year, with sessions available every day after school for nine months, although not every child attended every session.

At the end of the program, both groups returned to the university to repeat the physical and cognitive tests.

They compared the changes that happened in the brains of the kids who played every day after school and the ones who continued with regular afterschool programs.

Tellingly, the children who had attended the most exercise sessions showed the greatest improvements in their cognitive scores.

Meanwhile, the children in the control group also raised their test scores, but to a much smaller extent. In effect, both groups’ brains were developing, but the process was more rapid and expansive in the children who ran and played.

– via NYTimes

Do your kids play actively every day? Have you noticed an increase in test scores and reading and math skills when they play more?

 

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