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Why taking regular exercise is so good for young minds

We all know regular exercise boosts confidence, reduces stress levels and keeps us physically fit whatever our age, but were you aware that it’s also great for young minds?

Children who move more are better able to remember more –  and they find it easier to retain what they’ve learned.

Researchers studied the effects of a walk on the cognitive performance of a group of pre-adolescent schoolchildren and found that they performed much better at reading comprehension following physical activity. The children’s spelling and arithmetic performance also improved, although the results were not quite as statistically significant.

This research, supported by  the US-based National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, concluded that “single, acute bouts of moderately intense aerobic exercise (i.e., walking) may improve the cognitive control of attention…and further supports the use of moderate acute exercise as a contributing factor for increasing attention and academic performance. The data suggests that single bouts of exercise affect specific underlying processes that support cognitive health.”

Exercise and nutrition develops young brains

These findings, bear out what we at Spark Academy in Leicester have always suspected: getting fitter helps make our children smarter. Exercise is essential for young developing brains as well as bodies, boosting energy levels and mental health. It also helps unlock creativity and improves memory so children find it easier to remember what they’ve been taught.

To promote good habits, it’s recommended that physical activity becomes a routine part of daily life from an early age. This might mean walking to school, running around in the playground, going swimming or playing team sports like football or cricket – whatever the child enjoys most.

And to underpin this commitment to healthy living, children should be encouraged to eat well, choosing foods that aid learning by helping their brains to process information more effectively. Fruit and vegetables should feature in their diets, as should foods that are rich in omega three, such as oily fish, walnuts and flax seeds.

They should also drink lots of water and avoid junk food. As is the case with adults, children feel lethargic and less able to concentrate after eating meals high in sugar, salt and saturated fat. Going back to learning in the afternoon is much harder if you’ve  just had a heavy, unhealthy lunch.

Children who eat a balanced diet and take daily exercise are happier – and they’re less likely to be ill and miss school. A child’s learning  journey should be about so much more than sitting  behind a desk or staring at a screen. As this research shows, it should be truly holistic – taking in every aspect of a child’s mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

For more information on helping your child to learn, get in contact with the Spark team here.