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Exercise Key to Children’s Mental Health

According to a new study published in Health Psychology, a regular exercise plan goes a long way in improving a child's ability to think and plan.

In this recent study, researchers examined 171 overweight children between the ages of seven and 11. While all subjects started off the day inactive, they would pick up and do some exercise as the day progressed for the purpose of the analysis. The exercise included skipping, running and jumping.

To be able to determine the impact of the physical workouts, participants underwent cognitive functioning tests and MRIs to check for increased or decreased brain activity.

Researchers noted that children who regularly exercised were better able to think, plan and do math. The MRIs revealed that kids who recently and regularly exercised increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex. That area, of course, is associated with complex thinking, decision-making and various types of social behavior.

There was also a correlation between the amount of exercise and results. Intelligence scores increased an average of 3.8 points in those who worked out 40 minutes per day after school for three months.

Interestingly enough, though, there was no noticeable improvement in reading skills associated with exercise.

The leader researcher in the study, Dr. Catherine Davis, had this to say:

"I hope these findings will help re-establish physical activity's important place in schools in helping kids stay physically well and mentally sharp. For children to reach their potential, they need to be active."

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