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Exercise Improves Academic Performance in Children

Last Updated: April 06, 2009.

Short periods of moderate exercise such as walking improve attention and academic performance in pre-adolescent children, researchers report in the March 31 issue of Neuroscience.

MONDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Short periods of moderate exercise such as walking improve attention and academic performance in pre-adolescent children, researchers report in the March 31 issue of Neuroscience.

Charles H. Hillman, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues compared academic performance in 20 pre-adolescents (mean age 9.5 years) at rest and after their heart rate had returned to normal after 20 minutes of walking on a treadmill at 60 percent of estimated maximum heart rate.

The researchers found that acute exercise improved academic achievement (as assessed by Wide Range Achievement Test 3) for reading comprehension but not spelling or arithmetic. The amplitudes of the P3 component of event-related brain potentials were also larger after acute exercise. In addition, response accuracy improved after exercise, the authors note.

"Collectively, these findings indicate that single, acute bouts of moderately intense aerobic exercise (i.e. walking) may improve the cognitive control of attention in pre-adolescent children, and further support the use of moderate acute exercise as a contributing factor for increasing attention and academic performance," Hillman and colleagues conclude. "These data suggest that single bouts of exercise affect specific underlying processes that support cognitive health and may be necessary for effective functioning across the life span."

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