By SOPHIE BORLAND
Mail Online 16th September 2010
If you want to boost your child’s results at school, you could do a lot worse than ensuring that they do plenty of exercise.
Scientists have already shown that physical activity can make you brainier. But a team in America has used scans to show that an important part of the brain actually grows in children who are fit.
These youngsters tend to be more intelligent and have better memories than those who are inactive.
Physically fit children performed better in memory tests and had larger hippocampi, according to a new study (posed)
Scientists also found that one of the most important parts of their brains was 12 per cent larger than those of unfit youngsters.
They believe that encouraging children to take exercise from a very young age could help them do better at school later.
Researchers from the University of Illinois, in the U.S., studied the brains of 49 children aged nine and ten using a magnetic resonance imaging scan, a technique which provides very detailed pictures of organs and tissues in the body.
They also tested the fitness levels of the children by making them run on a treadmill. The scientists found that the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, was around 12 per cent larger in the fitter youngsters.
They found that these children performed much better in memory tests.
‘We knew that experience and environmental factors and socioeconomic status all impact brain development,’ he said.
‘If you get some lousy genes from your parents, you can’t really fix that, and it’s not easy to do something about your economic status.
But here’s something that we can do something about. ‘This is the first study I know of that has used MRI measures to look at differences in brain between kids who are fit and kids who aren’t.’
The findings could encourage parents and schools to make exercise more of a priority for young children.
Figures show the majority of youngsters lead inactive lifestyles, with a third of those of primary school age either overweight or obese.