Fitter Kids Have Bigger Brains
Are your children fit and active? You may think children 9 or 10 years of age are too young to be concerned about physical fitness. But new research suggests there’s no time to waste if you want your child to be the best version of him- or herself. That’s because aerobic fitness—due to ordinary play activities involving plenty of running, jumping, and anything else that gets kids moving—is linked to alterations in brain “white matter microstructure”. Or, as researchers noted recently in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, “…children with higher fitness levels may have faster neural conduction between brain regions important for cognitive control.”
In layman’s terms; the more physically fit kids were, the more likely they were to have better functioning brains.
At a time when some school districts are cutting physical education and squeezing play breaks out of the daily school schedule, it’s important to note that these practices may be distinctly counter-productive. Far from being a waste of time, play that allows kids to build aerobic fitness is also likely to help make them smarter, and better able to learn.
Plenty of experts have noted the link between adequate unstructured playtime and various positive outcomes, such as increased problem-solving skills, better social interactions, and more creative thinking. Play is important for mental wellness among children. This latest research shows that play is not only psychologically beneficial; it also alters the physical structure of the brain in a manner consistent with faster thinking.
Pam Jarvis, Stephen Newman, Louise Swiniarski. On ‘becoming social’: the importance of collaborative free play in childhood. International Journal of Play, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2013.863440
Laura Chaddock-Heyman, Kirk I. Erickson, Joseph L. Holtrop, Michelle W. Voss, Matthew B. Pontifex, Lauren B. Raine, Charles H. Hillman, Arthur F. Kramer. Aerobic fitness is associated with greater white matter integrity in children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584