Home > Exercise in School > Is There a Link Between Exercise and Intelligence in Children?

Is There a Link Between Exercise and Intelligence in Children?

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 5 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Intelligence Exercise Fitness Brain

The physical health benefits of doing plenty of exercise are well known for both adults and children. What is less documented however, are the mental benefits of exercise, especially in children, whose brains are still developing. In other words – not much research has been done into how exercise can build up the brain of a child as well as its body. This changed in the autumn of 2010 though, when researchers at the University of Illinois ran a study on children aged between nine and ten to look in detail at how exercise affected their brain development and therefore their intelligence.

What Did They Want to Find Out?

Often, research is carried out with one hypothesis in mind but when it gets underway, the conclusion will clearly be something very different. But in this case, the research was carried out with a specific remit: the researchers wanted to find out exactly how fitness and exercise impacts upon the mind. The academics who carried out the research knew that the brains of animals had been proven to increase in size when they exercised – and wanted to try out the same thing on children.

How Did They Test It?

Testing the impact of anything on a brain is not easy, especially when it involves children. But the researchers decided on a plan of action whereby they sorted the youngsters into groups depending on their fitness levels and tested them on a treadmill. They then used the most fit and least fit groups so they could use them as a direct comparison. The children then had to complete a series of tests designed to judge the size and shape of different parts of their brains. Their brains were also scanned in an MRI scan to measure volume of different areas which do different jobs.

What Were The Findings?

The findings were relatively clear cut. The children who were fitter performed far better on the mental tests than the unfit group. But, in addition, the children who were fitter also had significantly larger brains when they were scanned in the MRIs, with the extra volume being present in the areas associated with increased intelligence. The children had all come from similar backgrounds as well as having similar body shapes and other factors being the same so the conclusion could be drawn that their fitness levels played a part in their increased intelligence.

The findings are perhaps not altogether surprising, and, of course, much more research needs to be done into the impact of exercise on children’s intelligence. But on these basic, preliminary findings, it is does seem to be the case that your child will benefit in many more ways than first thought from regular exercise. If an increase in intelligence is yet another benefit to regular exercise, then how can parents not encourage their child to get playing sport and get even more active. And if they play a team game, perhaps their brains will even benefit from the mental stimulation of having to learn the game, positions and tactics!

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Joel
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    I’m 12 and PE in my opinion is stupid. To me, it’s an entrance ticket for bullying. My school especially needs to understand not everyone…
    8 June 2019
  • fina
    Re: Active Games for Teens
    wow interesting thanks this is my essay!@!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    29 May 2019
  • Waleed
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    Im in year 9 and we have 1 double lession a week and in those lessons we are forced to do exercise. The think I hate is the treadmills…
    23 April 2019
  • EndPE
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    PE needs to not be compulsory for GCSE students, if the kids are unfit that's their problem but PE does not and will not help them,…
    26 March 2019
  • Mandz
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    My son has actually harmed himself on the sole of his foot very badly to avoid PE with one particular teacher who tries to force him to…
    14 March 2019
  • Rainbow
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    I am in year 7 and I don't do pe because of my anxiety. The teachers were okay with this and told me to at least write what is going on…
    13 February 2019
  • Charlotte Marie Apri
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    In my school. I have two timetables week A and Week B. Week B there is only 2 pe lessons Tuesday and Wednesday but week A there is…
    10 November 2018
  • Michelle
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    My daughter who is in year 10 has a new P.E teacher and I'm constantly receiving texts saying something from her P.E kit is missing,…
    28 September 2018
  • Stan
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    My son has no pe at all, he has been given booster lessons for maths and when he reaches his (or their!) target he gets his pe back!!! he…
    12 September 2018
  • Mater
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    Disgusted to find that my child's new timetable for year 11, has increased PE to two sessions a week, thereby losing one of his GCE…
    5 September 2018