Exercise Helps Overweight Kids Do the Math

Filed under: Tween Culture, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Tweens

Regular exercise boosts brain power. Credit: Corbis

In addition to making fewer trips to the drive-thru, now there's a new incentive to get chubby kids off the couch and to the gym. Turns out that regular exercise not only helps overweight kids get physically healthy, it also boosts their brain power.

Researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University studied 171 overweight and sedentary 7- to 11-year-olds and found that regular, vigorous exercise helps children think, plan and do math, according to a report on the university website.

"I hope these findings will help reestablish physical activity's important place in the schools in helping kids stay physically well and mentally sharp," Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist at GHSU's Georgia Prevention Institute says in the report, which was published in Health Psychology. "For children to reach their potential, they need to be active."

"We know that exercise is good for you, but we didn't have very good evidence [before this] that it would help children do better in school," Davis tells HealthDay News.

In addition to helping overweight kids, regular exercise could have similar results for normal weight kids, Davis says.

"There are some neural growth factors that have been identified in mice that exercise," she says. "These benefits may include more brain cells and more connections between them."

The more kids exercised, the better the results, according to the report. Intelligence scores jumped an average 3.8 points in those exercising 40 minutes per day after school for three months with a smaller benefit in those exercising 20 minutes daily, according to the report.

The impact of exercising also helps kids have greater self control and behave better, Davis says in the report. "Maybe they will be more likely to stay in school and out of trouble," she says.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.