Two new studies have found that fitter kids did better on tests and actually had bigger parts of their brains from the exercise.
Researchers at the University of Illinois sorted kids by fitness level and then tested the most fit and the least fit. The kids had to watch directional arrows and push certain keys which showed the scientist how well they could filter out unnecessary info and attend to relevant cues.
“Previous studies found that fitter kids generally scored better on such tests. And in this case, too, those children performed better on the tests. But the M.R.I.’s provided a clearer picture of how it might work. They showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply. Since both groups of children had similar socioeconomic backgrounds, body mass index and other variables, the researchers concluded that being fit had enlarged that portion of their brains.”
“Meanwhile, in a separate, newly completed study by many of the same researchers at the University of Illinois, a second group of 9- and 10-year-old children were also categorized by fitness levels and had their brains scanned, but they completed different tests, this time focusing on complex memory. Such thinking is associated with activity in the hippocampus, a structure in the brain’s medial temporal lobes. Sure enough, the M.R.I. scans revealed that the fittest children had heftier hippocampi.”
The article also says that past University of Illinois studies have found that just 20 minutes of walking before a test raised scores even if the kids were unfit or overweight.
Our school always had us send in brain food before the CRCT maybe we needed to march them around outside before they started.
There are some schools that start their day on the playground instead of with morning work in the classroom. I’ve always thought it was a great way for kids to get the wiggles out of their pants before they start class, but maybe it would actually make them perform better all day to start with some exercise. (Remember that Japanese trend from the 1980s where employees exercised together before work started. HMM.)
It also seems to make sense that parts of their brains would be bigger from the exercise . I’m clearly not a doctor but I would guess that exercise would increase blood flow which would help those tissues in the brain flourish. (Just a guess!) Also maybe getting their oxygen level higher increases their alertness for the tests.
So what do you think? Are you surprised that exercise can have an impact on how intelligent your kids are? Do you think more schools should increase their PE time or start their days on the playground instead of with morning work before the bell rings? Should they walk them around before tests?
Knowing this info will you try to get your kids more exercise – if not for their heart health or to prevent obesity, just so they can be smarter?