Would you like to see your kids do better in math? Then send them outside to play – after studying of course. Why? A study shows that kids who take part in vigorous exercise improve their math scores and their cognition.
Researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University looked at the effects of fast-paced exercise and hard play on 171 overweight children between the ages of 7 and 11 and made an interesting discovery: the more these previously sedentary kids exercised, the better their cognitive skills – and their math skills.
The kids in this study engaged in a vigorous exercise program where they ran and jumped – where their heart rate rose to 79 percent of maximum, the equivalent of moderate to high intensity exercise – and it helped. Not only did these kids test better on cognitive assessment tests and math, some of them underwent MRI brain scanning to look at brain activity. The kids who exercised had greater activity in areas of the brain linked with planning, decision making and more advanced cognition.
Most amazing was the fact these kids who played hard were able to do better in math without additional math instruction. Vigorous exercise seemed to bring to the forefront their ability to work through mathematical problems. Interestingly, their reading skills weren’t improved with exercise.
Researchers believe vigorous exercise stimulates blood vessels and nerve cells in the brain to grow – and promotes better communication between existing neurons. It may do this by boosting the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a protein produced by the brain. This protein is important for boosting the growth of nerve cells. Plus, exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, providing the brain with life-giving oxygen, which helps it to function better.
So, in future, encourage your children to go outside and play rather than sitting in front of the television or computer screen. Get them involved in games that require running, or get out a skipping rope and challenge them to use it. Skip right along with them to help clear your mind and improve your brain too. Exercise is good for everyone – and it may help your kids bring home a better math score.