Regular exercise improves overweight kids' math skills

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Washington, Feb 11 (ANI): Georgia Health Sciences University researchers have found that regular exercise improves the ability of overweight, previously inactive children to think, plan and even do math.

They hope the findings in 171 overweight 7- to 11-year-olds - all sedentary when the study started - gives educators the evidence they need to ensure that regular, vigorous physical activity is a part of every school day, said Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist at GHSU's Georgia Prevention Institute and corresponding author on the study in Health Psychology

To measure cognition, researchers used the Cognitive Assessment System and Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement III that measure abilities such as planning and academic skills such as math and reading. A subset of the children received functional magnetic resonance imaging highlighting increased or decreased areas of brain activity.

MRIs showed those who exercised experienced increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex - an area associated with complex thinking, decision making and correct social behavior - and decreased activity in an area of the brain that sits behind it. The shift forward appears consistent with more rapidly developing cognitive skills, Davis said.

And the more they exercised, the better the result. Intelligence scores increased an average 3.8 points in those exercising 40 minutes per day after school for three months with a smaller benefit in those exercising 20 minutes daily.

Similar improvements were seen in math skills; interestingly, no improvements were found in reading skill. Researchers note that improved math achievement was "remarkable" since no math lessons were given and suggests longer intervention could produce even better results. (ANI)

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