Kids engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day after school saw substantial improvements in their ability to pay attention, avoid distraction and switch between cognitive tasks, reveals a new study.
According to the study, the kids in the exercise group who received a structured intervention that was designed for the way kids like to move performed short bouts of exercise interspersed with rest over a two-hour period, while on average, kids' heart rates corresponded with a moderate-to-vigorous level of exercise intensity, and they averaged about 4,500 steps during the two-hour intervention.
Children in the exercise group also demonstrated substantial increases in "attentional inhibition," a measure of their ability to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand. And they improved in "cognitive flexibility," which involves switching between intellectual tasks while maintaining speed and accuracy. Children in the wait-list control group saw minimal improvements in these measures, in line with what would be expected as a result of normal maturation over the nine month.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.