There’s another good reason why children should get out and play. A recent study discovered a strong correlation between a child’s cardiovascular health and academic success. Scientists from Switzerland conducted a series of tests on school children in Geneva and discovered an association between cardiovascular endurance and mental skills, especially in the fields of math and language.
According to Study Finds, Charles H. Hillman, co-director of the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health, which investigates the role of lifestyle choices and behaviors on brain and cognition, is the corresponding author of the new study. An earlier study by Hillman, from Northeastern University in Boston, found a link between cardiorespiratory wellness in children and enhanced executive skills.
The University of Geneva’s Faculty of Psychology and Educational Services (FPSE) worked with eight schools in the Geneva province administering assessment tests to 193 students ages 8 to 12. A “shuttle run test” ― running back and forth between markers placed 22 yards apart ― was used to measure the cardiovascular fitness of the children
“Combined with height, weight, age, and sex, this test allows us to assess the child’s cardiovascular fitness,” said researcher Marc Yanguez.
“Following this, we used nine tasks that allow us to assess children’s abilities in the three main executive functions ― inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and working memory — and we measured different indicators such as the precision and speed of their responses,” added Julien Chanal, a fellow researcher on the FPSE study.
Students who were more physically fit received higher grades in math and French grammar. They were also better at multitasking as measured by cognitive flexibility tests.
“By demonstrating the link between physical capacities, such as cardiorespiratory capacity, cognitive ability and grades, it underlines the importance of not reducing physical activity — in particular physical education hours — in favor of other subjects, as this would have a negative impact on the development of the child as a whole,” said Yanguez, according to Study Finds.
The new research is published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise.
Previous research conducted in Norway in 2020 found that kids who are active in sports and other recreational activities are less prone to depression. “Being active, getting sweaty, and roughhousing offer more than physical health benefits. They protect against depression,” said Dr. Tonje Zahl, the author of the Norwegian study.
According to Exercise is Medicine, a division of the American College of Sports Medicine, being active can also decrease behavior problems in children and help them concentrate on their homework as well as boost their immune system. The experts compiled a handy guideline to age-appropriate exercise programs your children can do at home. You can find it here.
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