165 Exercise in School

Based on research by Chaddock-Heyman, Laura, Erickson, K.I., Holtrop, J.L., Voss, M.W., Pontifex, M.B., Raine, L.B., Kramer, A.F. (2014), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Previous research has shown children who are more physically active perform better in school, but do we know why?

Psychologist Laura Chaddock-Heyman and colleagues at the University of Illinois Beckman Institute conducted a research study to answer this question. They evaluated 9 and 10-year-old children by assessing their aerobic fitness and examining MRI brain images. The children who were more physically fit had more brain white matter than those who were not as physically fit. White brain matter is responsible for connecting different parts of the brain together, and is important for attention and memory functioning. These results show that improved fitness as a result of exercise, may lead to beneficial changes in the brain such as strengthening the way messages are sent throughout the brain via the white brain matter.

Physical activity is essential to keeping children’s brains active and open to learning. This study demonstrates physical education class and recess in school may be just as influential for school performance as spending time in the classroom.

To promote brain activity, learning, and better school performance, encourage your children to exercise! Continue brain development after school. Enroll them in a sport and send them outside to play and run.


Chaddock-Heyman, L., Erickson, K. I., Holtrop, J. L., Voss, M. W., Pontifex, M. B.,             Raine, L. B., Kramer, A. F. (2014). Aerobic fitness is associated with greater         white matter integrity in children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 584.          doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584

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