A study published this week in the academic journal PLOS One underscores the growing body of research demonstrating the importance of physical activity for students, and the connection to better academic achievement. Lower fitness, decreased physical activity, and reductions in recess have all been growing trends in schools across the country. Prior research demonstrated that lower fitness is related to reduced cognitive function.
Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign sought to understand the relationship between aerobic fitness, learning and memory in a group of 48 9 and ten year-olds, separated into two categories: High and Low fit. Among the study’s conclusions were that fitness boosts brainpower in kids.
Half of the children in the study ranked in the top 30% of fitness (as measured by a treadmill test) for kids their age and gender; the other half ranked in the bottom 30%. Other than that, the kids in both groups were basically the same in terms of socioeconomic status, ADHD symptoms and scores on an intelligence test. In both groups, about half were boys and half were girls.
The children spent one day using iPads to learn the geography of the fictitious maps. In some cases, the learning was reinforced by short quizzes; in others, there was only memorization. Their recall was tested the following day.
Overall, the kids who were physically fit got an average score of 54.2% and the kids who were not fit got an average score of 44.2%. The difference was more pronounced when children were asked to remember the map they had learned without the benefit of quizzes – the fit kids scored 43% on average, while the unfit kids scored 25.8% on average.
Read the study here.