Once upon a time it was almost expected that the brainy kid and the brawny kid sat in complete contrast. One ruled the academic world and the other dominated the playing field without either being viewed as particularly great at the other field of endeavour.
Well now it seems the link between physical activity and brain development is so much stronger in the face of our modern day prevalence of inactivity that the physical kids may have the advantage in the classroom.
Exercise improves cognitive function
Mounting evidence shows that children who are more physically active have superior cognitive function and neural brain development.
A recent research review conducted at the University of WA on the topic of physical activity and academic performance in children found that the average academic achievement of children who received extra physical education was significantly higher than children who were in the control group (who did not receive extra physical education).
They also found that physical activity was a significant, positive predictor of academic achievement. Body mass index, diet and physical activity explained up to 24% of the variance in academic achievement after controlling for gender, parental education, family structure and absenteeism.
Improving resilience and decreasing stress
Exercise literally promotes neurogenesis – the growth of new neurons in the brain, as well as increasing tolerance to stress, improving information processing, memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement for children and even having anti-depressive effects.
It’s not just our growing youth that can benefit
Even adults still benefit greatly in the way of cognitive function from physical activity. It was found that greater amounts of physical activity and higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels are associated with better cognitive function in older adults.
Among the greatest things we can do for ourselves and our children is regular physical activity. Build your brain AND your brawn, and enjoy the benefits of health, performance and vitality.