Exercising among children after school provides them more than a healthy body: it also improves their mind and concentration.
A team of researchers led by Charles Hillman from the University of Illinois discovered that children who belong to a certain physical activity program tend to have better thinking skills and concentration than those who are not.
The study entitled "Effects of FitKids Randomized Controlled Trial on Executive Control and Brain Function," which is already published in Pediatrics, the researchers worked with 221 Illinois children from 7 to 9 years old and grouped them randomly. The first group formed part of the waitlist while the other belonged to FitKids program, which lasted for 150 days.
Kids who belonged to the activity program were then required to spend 2 hours doing physical activity, of which around half was dedicated to exercises that ranged from moderate to intense. After the exercise session and for the remainder of the time, they were then encouraged to play organizational games including soccer.
The study lasted for 9 months, after which they analyzed the results of the 2 groups. While both groups experienced improved fitness, those who were part of the program had better rates with a 5% difference in terms of aerobic skills.
Moreover, FitKids children also fared better in the areas of multitasking and other cognitive activities. They also developed the ability to be more focused.
According to the researchers, these results are important since these traits are needed once they reached adulthood. Adults are constantly faced with situations that would require them to be more attentive and multitask, for example.
Moreover, by correlating physical activity and brain development, they think that school districts should not reduce their time for recess breaks. This way, children will be given enough time to be active.
Health experts recommend that children should be engaged in a moderate to intense physical activity at least 60 minutes a day to prevent or reduce childhood obesity.