Physical education should be taught every day at school because exercise boosts brain size and improves academic performance, a study has shown for the first time.
Researchers from the University of Granada found that youngsters who took part in exercise for at least three nights a week had more grey matter in areas of the brain linked to reading and verbal communication.
“Our work aims at answering questions such as whether the brain of children with better physical fitness is different from that of children with worse physical fitness and if this affects their academic performance”, said Professor Francisco Ortega of the university’s Sport and Health Institute.
“The answer is short and forceful: yes, physical fitness in children is linked in a direct way to important brain structure differences, and such differences are reflected in the children’s academic performance”
“I believe that there is strong evidence supporting the need for PE everyday, since current youth have multiple opportunities to be sedentary, and few opportunities to be active.
“Since 100 per cent of children go to schools, there is no other better opportunity, with equality between families with higher and lower socioeconomic status to promote physical activity than by including PE daily. The benefits of exercise for health have been accumulated from hundreds of scientific papers.”
The researchers studied more than 100 overweight and obese children aged between eight and 11, half of whom were asked to take part in cardiovascular exercise for 90 minutes, at least three days of the week.
Their fitness levels were measured and the volume of their brains recorded at the beginning of the experiment and measurements were taken again at the end.