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Exercise Boosts Learning, Memory in Children

Update Date: Sep 11, 2013 06:45 PM EDT
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Exercising can improve learning and memory in children, according to a new study.  Researchers said this is particularly true when the learning on a task is more challenging.

The latest study involved 48 children between the ages of nine and 10. The kids were asked to memorize names and locations on a fake map. The children learned by either studying or being tested on the material as they studied.

Researchers said that half of the children were in the top 30 percent of their age group on a test measuring aerobic fitness, while the other half scored the lowest 30 percent.

The findings revealed that children who were fitter performed better than those who were not as fit.

Researchers also found that the difference between the high-fitness and low-fitness groups was also more apparent when the initial learning was performed by studying alone than when testing and study were interspersed.

Previous research suggested that mixing testing and study improves later recall in children, and is less challenging than studying alone.

The study suggest that fitness levels may influence learning differently when the study method used is more challenging, and that higher levels of aerobic fitness can benefit learning and memory in school-age children.

"Future research should focus on the manner in which these factors impact the neural processes of children during learning," researchers wrote.

"Reducing or eliminating physical education in schools, as is often done in tight financial times, may not be the best way to ensure educational success among our young people," they added.

The findings are published in the journal PLoS ONE

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