Three months of daily, vigorous exercise can improve
overweight kids' thinking, U.S. researchers report.
Physical activity can also lower their diabetes risk,
reduce their body fat, and strengthen their bones, says
a team that looked at about 200 overweight, inactive children,
ages 7 to 11.
All the children learned about healthy nutrition and
the benefits of physical activity. In addition, a third
of the children exercised 20 minutes a day, and another
third exercised for 40 minutes. During the exercise sessions,
the children played running games and used hula hoops
and jump ropes to get their heart rates to 79 percent
of maximum -- considered a vigorous workout.
"Aerobic exercise training showed dose-response
benefits on executive function (decision-making) and possibly
math achievement, in overweight
children," the researchers wrote in an abstract
presented this week at The Obesity Society's annual
scientific meeting in New
Orleans. "Regular exercise may be a simple,
important method of enhancing children's cognitive
and academic development. These results may persuade educators
to implement vigorous physical activity curricula during
a childhood obesity epidemic," the researchers concluded.
"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," lead investigator Dr. Catherine
Davis, a clinical health psychologist at the Medical
College of Georgia, in Augusta,
said in a prepared statement.
"We hope these findings will help persuade policymakers,
schools and communities that time spent being physically
active enhances, rather than detracts from learning,"