Physical Fitness Boosts Kids’ Memory

By: Dr. Pascale Michelon

Being physically fit is among the most relevant factors as far as brain health and performance is concerned. This is true at all ages. A new study further shows the importance of physical fitness in kids, demonstrating its beneficial effects on memory.

The study involved forty-eight 9-10 year-old children. Half were in the top 30% of their age group on a test measuring aerobic fitness and half in the lowest 30%.

The children were asked to memorize the names of regions on a fictitious map, using either a challenging learning method or an easier one. The challenging method involved merely studying the regions’ names. The easier method involved both studying the names and testing the children’s memory as they studied. Based on previous results, the challenging method was expected to yield a much poorer recall performance than the easier method.

The children’s memory was tested one day after the learning session. Children who were the fitter had better memory scores than children who were not as fit. This difference was even greater when the initial learning was performed under challenging conditions (i.e., studying alone).

The researchers concluded that:

  • Children’s levels of physical fitness influence their learning abilities: the fitter, the better the memory.
  • This influence is the strongest when the study method is challenging and usually yields poor recall.

This study has important implications for educational practices, especially at a time when physical education is often cut back at school. Not only poorer health may result from inactivity but also poorer brain health and performance.

Other studies have shown that physical fitness is directly related to brain fitness in younger and older adults as well. A good reason to start exercising at a young age and keep up with the habit throughout life.

References: Raine, L. B., …& Kramer, A. F. (2013). The influence of childhood aerobic fitness on learning and memory. Published 11 Sep 2013 | PLOS ONE

To learn more about the effects of physical exercise on your brain:

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