There’s the old saying that a healthy body can mean a healthy mind, but now research is drawing certain associations that point toward good exercise equating to higher grades for children! There’s never been any doubt about the physical benefits of exercising to maintain good health. Those are well documented, as everyone knows that exercise can build up strength, stamina and provide the necessary aerobic and cardiopulmonary activity that stimulates health and growth.
The Brain Connection
Now, however, different universities and research groups are also at arriving at similar conclusions about how the physical benefits of exercise have mental benefits as well. And these benefits are tangible in children, with measurable success and better grades. Of course, part of this is the fact that the body is a series of interdependent systems, and so when one part is doing well, other parts benefit. An increase in cardiopulmonary efficiency brought about by exercise means that the cells in the body are now getting more oxygen and using it more efficiently. All cells will generally do this including the portions responsible for grades, brain cells.
A study conducted by the University of North Texas concluded that increasing the health of the heart and lungs had tangible effects on improving the ability to read and undertake mathematics for middle school children. Regardless of gender, it was found that both boys and girls who improved their cardiorespiratory health also improved their ability to read and understand math, with an increase in examine results when tested.
Good health also has an impact on the size of certain parts of the brain, according to studies run by the University of Illinois. The hippocampus is a portion of the brain that is dedicated to memory operations. The Illinois study found that children who engaged regularly in activity that stimulated cardiopulmonary health had bigger hippocampi than less active children.
This larger hippocampi size in and of itself might not seem like much, but when tests were conducted on these children, it was found that children with bigger hippocampi did consistently better on memory tests than children with smaller organs. In other words, bigger hippocampi may result in bigger memory capacity, and bigger hippocampi are a direct result of regular cardiopulmonary activity and improved health.
The ability of a child to lift great weights or run extremely fast did not factor into better grades. So parents looking at these results should not interpret them to mean that children must provably run faster, or develop more sizable muscles for lifting in order to get good mental benefits. The key to increased mental performance is making sure that children remain active, and are challenged to get exercise.
This is not, of course, a guarantee for anything, and it doesn’t mean that child that is physically frail is doomed to perform poorly in school simply because he or she cannot run vigorously. In the same way, having an athletic child is not a guarantee of academic genius.
However, the results here do seem to find in favor of good overall health reducing the risk of academic failure. So if you want your child to have an active mind that is quick and nimble, make sure that he or she has an active, physical lifestyle as well, with aerobic activities that result in cardiopulmonary stimulation.