Just three months of daily, vigorous physical activity in overweight children improves their thinking and reduces their diabetes risk, researchers say.
Studies of about 200 overweight, inactive children ages 7-11 also showed that a regular exercise program reduces body fat and improves bone density.
Is exercise a magic wand that turns them into lean, healthy kids? No. They are still overweight but less so, with less fat, a healthier metabolism and an improved ability to handle life, says Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist at the Medical College of Georgia and lead investigator.
All study participants learned about healthy nutrition and the benefits of physical activity; one-third also exercised 20 minutes after school and another third exercised for 40 minutes. Children played hard, with running games, hula hoops and jump ropes, raising their heart rates to 79 percent of maximum, which is considered vigorous.
Aerobic exercise training showed dose-response benefits on executive function (decision-making) and possibly math achievement, in overweight children, researchers write in an abstract being presented during The Obesity Societys Annual Scientific Meeting Oct. 20-24 in New Orleans. Regular exercise may be a simple, important method of enhancing childrens cognitive and academic development. These results may persuade educators to implement vigorous physical activity curricula during a childhood obesity epidemic.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, which show the brain at work, were performed on a percentage of children in each group and found those who exercised had different patterns of brain activity during an executive function task.
Look what good it does when they exercise, says Dr. Davis. This is an important public health issue we need to look at as a nation to help our children learn and keep them well.
Unprecedented obesity and inactivity rates in America
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia