A new study published by the University of Illinois last month shows that aerobic exercise improves brain function in kids. Researchers asked 9- and 10-year-olds to run on a treadmill and then observed how fitness relates to their abilities on a series of computer tests and to their brain composition. The results? The fitter the child, the better they performed on the tests and the larger the basal ganglia in their brain (the part that controls attention span and the ability to carry out actions fluidly). The study participants came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds and had similar BMIs (so, it was a fairly level playing field in terms of the kids' body size and family life).
Separate studies by the University of Illinois showed that fitness may also improve complex memory function in kids' minds and that just 20 minutes of walking before a test can help improve a child's score. And a Swedish study correlated better fitness with higher I.Q.
You get the point (and it's one we're all well aware of) – exercise is good for us.
The findings of these studies are exciting, but also alarming given today's childhood obesity epidemic and increasingly sedentary lifestyle. As the NYTimes points out, "These findings arrive at an important time. For budgetary and administrative reasons, school boards are curtailing physical education, while on their own, children grow increasingly sluggish. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that roughly a quarter of children participate in zero physical activity outside of school."
Are phys ed and sports at risk in your community, or have they already been cut? I hope not!
And are you keeping your kids active when they're outside of school? Here are some fun ideas to get them moving: