Flex your kids' brain with exercise

September 2, 2014

I always suspected that regular physical fitness plays a role in the health of the brain. And now, a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience strongly suggests that kids who are more active and physically fit do better in school.

According to the study, "Aerobic fitness plays an important role in the brain health of children, especially in terms of brain structure and brain function. These fitness-related differences in brain health are often coupled with performance differences, such that more highly-fit children have been shown to outperform their lower-fit peers on tasks of cognitive control and memory as well as scholastic achievement tests in classroom."

Translation: If kids are going to be all that they are meant to be, both physically and cognitively, then they need to be physically fit. It makes sense. As human beings we are naturally designed for movement, and children in general (and boys in particular) really need that daily physical engagement.

Thatís why I advocate that kids need more recess, not less, and gym should be a daily part of the K-12 curriculum. At home, children should receive at least another hour of free play to ride their bikes, hit the playground, play some ball or jump rope on the sidewalk. And, guess what? Thereís still time to get the homework, violin and dance lessons in, especially since, according to the Nielsen Co., American children watch between 28 to 32 hours of television per week.

Donít you think itís absurd that we allow our children to watch this much TV? Isnít it obvious that television takes kids away from important things like exercise, play, homework, reading for pleasure or perhaps learning an instrument?

Even more insidious is the dangerous influence of the thousands of TV commercials consumed by our children, leaving them passive and vulnerable to an unconscious assault on their brains and bodies. If thatís not enough, for decades it has been well documented that children who watch a lot of television are more likely to be overweight, exercise infrequently (if at all), have poorer grades and fail to read at grade level.

Without a doubt, this new study should convince parents, educators, policymakers and politicians that kids need to climb trees, hang out on the monkey bars, jump off the steps, horseplay, wrestle and partake in snowball fights.

It will benefit their brains as well as their bodies.



Associated Press