More exercise = better grades

A University of Illinois study suggests there are academic benefits from physical education classes, recess periods and after-school exercise programs.

Study leader Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology and community health and the director of the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory at Illinois, suggests that physical activity may increase students’ cognitive control — or ability to pay attention — and also result in better performance on academic achievement tests.

The goal of the study was to see if a single acute bout of moderate exercise — walking — was beneficial for cognitive function in a period of time afterward, Hillman said in a statement. This question has been asked before by our lab and others, in young adults and older adults, but it’s never been asked in children. That’s why it’s an important question.

The 20 9-year-old study participants performed a series of stimulus-discrimination tests known as flanker tasks to assess their inhibitory control after a 20-minute resting period and, on another day, 20 minutes walking in a treadmill. During the testing, students were outfitted with an electrode cap to measure electroencephalographic activity.

The study, published in the journal Neuroscience, found that following the acute bout of walking, children performed better on the flanker task and had a higher rate of accuracy, especially when the task was more difficult.

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