New study finds exercise improves children's brain power

August 30, 2017, University of Auckland
New study finds exercise improves children’s brain power
Credit: University of Auckland

A new study has found that short bursts of intensive exercise boosts children's brain power and has benefits for children with learning difficulties or conditions such as autism.

Scientists have long known that is good for the brain. Previous research has found that long, sustained workouts lasting for around 30 to 40 minutes improve memory and learning in both adults and children.

But the latest research looked at the effect of of high-intensity training (HIT) lasting just ten minutes each day on children aged 7-13 years.

University of Auckland researcher David Moreau from the School of Psychology and his team established baseline data by testing the 305 participants on six tasks involving memory, and behaviour prior to the study commencing.

They then randomly assigned participants to either a placebo group involving activities such as games and quizzes, or to an HIT group that involved an intense ten-minute workout every weekday over a six week period.

Participants in the HIT group showed larger improvements in tasks involving memory and tasks involving information processing and behaviour, including the ability to focus on a task to completion without getting distracted.

The latter has been shown to be a key indicator of professional and academic success in adults.

"These findings reinforce previous research which has found that exercise is one of the most effective non-invasive ways to improve memory and cognitive understanding," Dr Moreau says.

"The significance of the study is that it shows exercise does not have to be time-consuming and that a range of children, some with learning difficulties, get real benefits from short periods of fairly intensive physical activity."

The study 'High-intensity Training Enhances Executive Function in Children in a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial' was published in eLife which publishes research across the life sciences and biomedicine and is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust.

Explore further: Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds

More information: David Moreau et al. High-intensity training enhances executive function in children in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, eLife (2017). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.25062

Related Stories

Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds

July 25, 2017
Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new study from University of Illinois ...

Aerobic and resistance exercise combo can boost brain power of over 50s

April 24, 2017
A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises can significantly boost the brain power of the over 50s, finds the most comprehensive review of the available evidence to date, published online in the British Journal of ...

Researchers find brief, intense stair climbing is a practical way to boost fitness

February 7, 2017
There are no more excuses for being out of shape. Researchers at McMaster University have found that short, intense bursts of stair climbing, which can be done virtually anywhere, have major benefits for heart health.

Need to remember something? Exercise four hours later

June 16, 2016
A new study suggests an intriguing strategy to boost memory for what you've just learned: hit the gym four hours later. The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on June 16 show that physical exercise ...

Kinesiologists find that people enjoy high-intensity interval training more than standard workouts

December 16, 2016
Having a hard time getting in shape? The key may lie in more intense, short bursts of exercise, according to new research from McMaster.

Can training your working memory make you smarter?

March 10, 2017
We would all like to boost our cognitive ability beyond the limits set by Mother Nature. So it's no wonder that brain-training programmes – which typically focus on training our working memory – are a multibillion-dollar ...

Recommended for you

Aggression neurons identified

May 25, 2018
High activity in a relatively poorly studied group of brain cells can be linked to aggressive behaviour in mice, a new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows. Using optogenetic techniques, the researchers were able ...

The brain's frontal lobe could be involved in chronic pain, according to research

May 25, 2018
A University of Toronto scientist has discovered the brain's frontal lobe is involved in pain transmission to the spine. If his findings in animals bear out in people, the discovery could lead to a new class of non-addictive ...

Doctors fail to flag concussion patients for critical follow-up

May 25, 2018
As evidence builds of more long-term effects linked to concussion, a nationwide study led by scientists at UCSF and the University of Southern California has found that more than half of the patients seen at top-level trauma ...

Study suggests brainwave link between disparate disorders

May 24, 2018
A brainwave abnormality could be a common link between Parkinson's disease, neuropathic pain, tinnitus and depression—a link that authors of a new study suggest could lead to treatment for all four conditions.

Bursts of brain activity linked to memory reactivation

May 24, 2018
Leading theories propose that sleep presents an opportune time for important, new memories to become stabilized. And it's long been known which brain waves are produced during sleep. But in a new study, researchers set out ...

Researchers define molecular basis to explain link between a pregnant mother's nutrition and infant growth

May 24, 2018
For years, pregnant mothers have questioned their nutritional habits: "Will eating more cause my baby to be overweight?" Or, "I'm eating for two, so it won't hurt to have an extra serving, right?"

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.