If you want your kids to get better grades, telling them to hit the books may not be the right answer after all. In fact, setting down the books and going outside to get some exercise will boost their brain power, and improve their scholastic performance.
That’s the latest advice offered from an international panel of experts who recently gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the benefits of exercise in school-age children. The panel of 24 researchers from 8 countries determined that physical activity offers multiple and significant benefits for children’s cognitive development.
“Physical activity before, during and after school promotes scholastic performance in children and youth,” reads the consensus statement release a few days ago by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. “Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are beneficial to brain structure, brain function and cognition in children and youth.”
While stacking multiple sessions of exercise into a day would provide the most boost for their growing brains, the experts also determined that even a single session of moderate physical activity “has an acute benefit to brain function, cognition and scholastic performance in children and youth.”
While the research is focused around physical activity in general and not limited to cycling, it certainly presents a compelling case for any parent to get their kids biking to school. Biking to school is not only a great way to foster independence in children, but is probably the easiest way for time-strapped parents to sneak a few extra minutes of exercise into their kids’ schedules.
Moreover, the consensus statement noted that “Engagement in physical activity has the potential to positively influence psychological and social outcomes for children and youth, such as self-esteem and relationships with peers, parents and coaches.”
Many people have fond memories of biking and walking to school with friends and neighbors, in many instances forming lifelong friendships. As more children are driven to school in today’s world, that sense of community well-being can be lost to an increasing sense of isolation, in both children and parents. Biking to school doubles down on the benefits of physical activity for kids, offering them a chance to get some exercise before and after a school in a fashion that is inherently social, thereby increasing their likelihood of forming positive relationships with parents, peers, and neighbors.
But if you’re still worried all that time playing around on two wheels might just get in the way of their homework and they should instead be studying in the back of the car, don’t worry, science has you covered. The researchers noted, “Time taken away from academic lessons in favour of physical activity has been shown to not come at the cost of scholastic performance in children and youth.”
So that settles it. If you’re hoping to raise a well-adjusted brainiac, all you need to do is buy your kid a bicycle!
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