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New study: Active children have healthier brains

Did you know that children with higher levels of fitness show greater brain volumes when it comes to memory and learning?

Everyone knows how beneficial daily activities and exercises can be for your child’s mental and physical health and now, a new study confirms it.

Researchers at the University of Illinois say that kids in good aerobic fitness have brains that could be in better shape to quickly process neural messaging and have better capacity for memory than those whose fitness is mediocre.

According to the researchers, who worked with a small group of nine and 10-year-olds, the fibrous and compact white matter tracts that connect the brain’s various lobes were found to exist in superior integrity in fit kids.

What the study suggests

While a December 2013 study conducted on healthy young adults at the Boston University Medical Center concluded that the hormones produced during exercise could be beneficial for cognitive health, no research had been done in this domain concerning children.

“Previous studies suggest that adults with higher levels of aerobic fitness show greater brain volumes in grey-matter brain regions important for memory and learning,” said University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Laura Chaddock-Heyman. “Now, for the first time, we explored how aerobic fitness relates to white matter in children’s brains.”

The team used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI, also called diffusion MRI) to look at white-matter tracts in the brains of 24 participants. The researchers aimed to determine whether the brains of physically fit children were different to those of their less-fit peers and if this affected their academic performance.

The researchers found that the answer was yes: children who are physically fit have a greater volume of grey matter in the brain’s frontal and temporal regions and the calcarine cortex, all of which are important for executive function (the mental skills that help us get things done), as well as learning, motor skills, and visual processing.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. To read the full findings, click here.    

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