University of Illinois, in its new study has revealed that kids who are physically active have greater cognitive control or ability to pay attention, and perform better at school.
The research led by Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology and community health and the director of the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory at Illinois, showed 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.
"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," he added.
During the study, the researchers recruited 20 nine-year-olds with eight girls and12 boys. They were asked to perform a series of stimulus-discrimination tests known as flanker tasks, to assess their inhibitory control.
On one day, students were tested following a 20-minute resting period; on another day, after a 20-minute session walking on a treadmill.
Later they were shown congruent and incongruent stimuli on a screen and were asked to push a button to respond to incongruencies.
"What we found is that following the acute bout of walking, children performed better on the flanker task," Hillman said.
"They had a higher rate of accuracy, especially when the task was more difficult. Along with that behavioral effect, we also found that there were changes in their event-related brain potentials (ERPs), in these neuroelectric signals that are a covert measure of attentional resource allocation," he added.
For further understanding, the test measured performance in three areas: reading, spelling and math. Again, the researchers noted better test results following exercise.