Kids who exercise daily do better at this
What if an hour-long game of tag each day not only made your children healthier, but also raised their test scores? New research suggests it can.
A soon-to-be published study of school children who participated in an afterschool exercise program in Urbana, Illinois showed noticeable changes after nine months of increased physical activity.
For the study, one group of children played tag and other vigorous games for 70 minutes a day. The control group continued their normal activities. Neither group changed their diet and both groups were tested for fitness, body composition and cognitive skills before the program began. At the end of nine months the children who exercised showed great improvement in their scores on computerized tests that measure how well a child pays attention and processes information.
The children who were obese in the exercise group also had less visceral fat at the end of nine months, while the ones who didn’t exercise had more. Visceral fat is known to increase inflammation in the body and has been linked to higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular complications.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day. A new study published in Preventive Medicine shows that most children are falling short. Among kids ages 6 to 11, 25 percent of boys and 50 percent of girls did not meet this recommendation. Teenagers fared even worse. Fifty percent of boys and 75 percent of girls were not active for at least an hour a day.
“An hour a day is a minimum recommendation,” said Hyannis cardiologist Elissa Thompson, who is also the medical director of the Healthy Parks, Healthy People program, a partnership between Cape Cod National Seashore and Cape Cod Healthcare. “Kids should be getting as much exercise as they possibly can. They should be outside playing sports, doing activities or even just going to the beach.”
It is not surprising that the children who exercised did better on tests, she said, When you increase your cardiac output you increase blood circulation throughout the body, including the brain. Exercising your body actually exercises your brain, she said.
Dr. Thompson’s best advice for parents is to get children off their devices and get them outside.
“You’re spending $800 to $1,000 for a device. Spend $100 instead and get them a good pair of sneakers and get them walking,” she said.
For parents who need ideas for how to get their children more active, Dr. Thompson offers the following suggestions:
Sign up as a family for Healthy Parks, Healthy People.
Heathy Parks, Healthy People offers a walking program to encourage people to adopt a more active and healthier lifestyle. The program provides maps and guide to trails in the National Seashore and a passport booklet where you can record your progress.
Medical staff from Cape Cod Healthcare are at the base camp at the Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Monday through Friday to measure participants’ weight, height, BMI and blood pressure and to offer heart health information. Dr. Thompson is at the base camp every Monday and Wednesday as well.