When overweight and sedentary kids start to exercise regularly, their skills in thinking and planning improve, suggests a new study.
Georgia Health Sciences University researchers had 171 overweight 7- to 11-year-olds either on a daily 20 or 40 minute exercise schedule or doing no exercise at all. Via Magnetic Resonance Imaging it was then examined how this influenced brain activity. To round it off, an intelligence test given at the beginning and at the end of the study looked at if the children’s scores differed due to exercising.
For those children exercising, the results showed increased brain activity in the areas where complex thinking, reasoning, abstract thinking and decision-making reside. On the intelligence test, the score for those that exercised for 40 minutes per day increased by an average of 3.8 points, while 20 minutes per day showed a smaller improvements.
What also stood out was that the children showed higher math skills without receiving any actual help to do better.
Lead researcher Catherine Davis assumes that behind these results is a combination of biological and environmental factors that act together in stimulating neural adaption and development: “There are some neural growth factors that have been identified in mice that exercise” and that there is “more stimulation when things are moving faster and when you’re moving. So it is cognitively stimulating to move”.
Picture courtesy of Jeff Knezovich.