Just An Hour Per Day Of Play Can Boost Young Brains

Posted on June 12, 2015

Charles Hillman Ph.D., kinesiology and community health professor at the University of Illinois, designed an ambitious project to test 221 students, aged 9 and 10, before and after a nine-month after school exercise program. In addition to standard fitness tests, the kids also underwent baseline brain imaging as well as tests of their executive functions, a collection of skills including working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, planning and execution. Hillman divided the students into two groups, an active group that were invited to participate in a two-hour after school exercise program and a control group that were placed on a wait list with no organized activity.

"Those in the exercise group received a structured intervention that was designed for the way kids like to move," said Hillman. "They performed short bouts of exercise interspersed with rest over a two-hour period."

The key finding was the observed changes in cognitive ability over nine months. While the control group improved slightly, as normal growth over a school year would explain, the active group demonstrated a big jump. Specifically, their “attentional inhibition”, the ability to focus on tasks in the presence of distractions, and their “cognitive flexibility” to switch between different tasks quickly. The research has been published in the journal Pediatrics.

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Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Sports Are 80 Percent Mental