In addition to asserting that it “controls weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity,” Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight childhood obesity can add “improves math skills” to the list of reasons to exercise.
Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta, led a study in which researchers analyzed MRI brain scans of 7 to 11- year-old overweight participants after they were randomly assigned to complete 0, 20 or 40 minutes of non-competitive physical activity daily after school, HealthDay News reports.
Results of the study, which was published in the January edition of Health Psychology, showed that the amount of daily exercise positively correlated with increased activity in parts of the brain associated with executive functions, such as complex thinking and reasoning.
The results confirm what school officials should have already known and implemented the need for a school-wide emphasis on exercise. Physical activity serves an important role “in helping kids stay physically well and mentally sharp,” Davis told e! Science News.
One high school near Chicago has used exercise outside gym class “jump start [students’] brains,” as one physical education teacher put it, for more than five years.
Naperville Central High School Students begin the day by attending gym class and continue to use yoga balls and treadmills throughout the day. As of last year, math scores had increased by 21 percent since the program was implemented and on average, students were reading more than one year beyond their grade level, ABC news reports.