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
  • Irene
    Re: Activities for 3-5 Year Olds
    I like the comments exercise is very important for young children
    8 October 2019
  • Cat
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    My son is 8 yrs old and was in football club today. When I came to pick him up they were in shorts and t-shirt outside in heavy rain he…
    24 September 2019
  • Dave121
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    I see some comments on here saying that PE is compulsory, however, the Education Act of 2002 prohibits the Secretary of State for…
    12 September 2019
  • PeIsBad
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    I'm in Year 10 and P.E is made a living hell for me, the girls in the class shout at you and put you down swearing at you and telling you…
    10 September 2019
  • ASN teacher
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    There is more to pe than simply sports. It is good for growing brain cells (for real). It is good for social skills (if delivered…
    25 August 2019
  • ellz
    Re: Compulsory PE in School
    My son went through he'll at school because of his bullying pe teacher my son has a pigeon chest and shortness of breath and is currently…
    6 August 2019
  • 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