Parents are always hearing about the importance of exercise for children. From emotional development to physical coordination skills, exercise can build healthy habits that have lifelong benefits. One of the most recently studied benefits of aerobic activity is the positive influence it has on executive functioning (EF), which includes memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. In fact, combining aerobic activity with cognitive engagement has an even stronger effect on executive functioning development for children.
Exercise changes the biochemistry of the brain by increasing blood vessels and strengthening the neuron connections. As the brain is flooded with blood, children can more easily acquire physical skills and cognitive development in the moment and with increased retention throughout the day.
Certain academic achievement can also be supported by frequent aerobic exercise. General intelligence scores have been shown to increase an average of 3.8 points. Additionally, math scores improve when students are consistently participating in exercise. While reading skills have not shown improvement, working memory has been correlated with aerobic activity, which can support reading and retention rates for students.
There are a host of emotional and cognitive processing benefits that are connected to exercise. Inhibitory control, which is the ability to inhibit or stop an urge (such as to grab a candy bar), and selective attention, which includes the ability to focus, are both shown to increase. Both aggression and anxiety are shown to decrease while self-confidence and adaptability skills flourish.
Overall, exercise not only improves physical development for children, but improves how well their brain functions. While aerobic activity does help children grow strong, fit, and healthy, there are other benefits, such as improved memory, improved focus, and emotional benefits. It is recommended that children participate in aerobic activity for a minimum of thirty minutes a day. Seek out activities that support a multitude of developmental areas and that spark interest in your child. Then, watch as their executive functioning flourishes.