July 10, 2010
Everyone knows that exercise is great for kids’ physical health, but the evidence is building to show that exercise can also be great for their minds.
In my role as a site coordinator for one of the 10 sites involved in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), I had the opportunity to be a part of a study researching the development of American children across the country.
It was an exciting experience to track the same group of children, over 1,000 kids, from their birth in 1991 through high school. A few of the many areas of interest for the SECCYD investigators were children’s health outcomes and their cognitive and achievement outcomes. Data on the participants’ amount and type of physical activity were collected and linked to their health outcomes or body-mass indices (BMI), but to date they have not been linked to their cognitive and achievement outcomes.
The SECCYD did not look for links, but other research studies have, and they have shown that it’s not physical health alone that suffers from inactivity. In fact, there are many cognitive and achievement benefits to exercise. Vigorous physical activity for school-age children has been associated with better grades (Coe, et. al, 2006) and higher academic achievement (Chomintz, et. al, 2009; Castelli, Hillman, Buck, & Erwin, 2007). Somewhat surprisingly, these positive outcomes resulted even if children’s increase in physical activity at school led to a decrease in their time devoted to academic learning in the classroom (Sallis et al., 1999).