Thursday, February 24, 2011

Exercise boosts children's IQ

Mens sana in corpore sano - a healthy mind in a healthy body - was long one of the watchwords of the English school system and a new study by researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University has provided interesting new evidence of the effects of improved fitness on children's cognition. The researchers studied 171 overweight seven to 11 year-olds who were all sedentary when the study started. The children were divided into groups taking different amounts of exercise and given tests assessing their planning, maths and reading. A smaller group of children were studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure their brain activity. Those children who exercised for 40 minutes a day after school for three months increased their IQ by an average of 3.8 points and made improvements in maths, although not in reading. The children who exercised showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex - an area of the brain associated with complex thinking, decision making and social behaviour - and more activity in the part of the brain responsible for executive function. The children's exercise included running games, hula hoops and skipping.

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