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 participate in vigorous exercise improve their math scores and 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. They made an interesting discovery: the more these previously sedentary kids exercised, the better their cognitive and 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. These kids tested better on cognitive assessment tests and math and had greater activity in brain areas linked with planning, decision-making, and more advanced cognition.
Most amazing was that these kids who played hard could do better in math without additional math instruction. Vigorous exercising brought to the forefront their ability to work through mathematical problems. Interestingly, their reading skills weren’t improved with exercise.
Researchers believe vigorous exercise stimulates brain blood vessels and nerve cells 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 the brain produces. This protein is important for boosting the growth of nerve cells. Plus, exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, providing it with life-giving oxygen, which helps it function better.
So, in the future, encourage your children to go outside and play rather than sit 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 along with them to help clear your mind and improve your brain, too. Exercise is good for everyone and may help your kids bring home a better math score.