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MRI Shows Brain Benefits of Exercise for Kids

Aug 29, 2014
Physically fit children have more beneficial white matter integrity in their brains than their sedentary peers, according to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Using diffusion-tensor magnetic resonance imaging, researchers explored the microstructural properties of white matter in the brains of 24 healthy 9- and 10-year-old children with varying levels of fitness. Researchers accounted for variables that could skew the results, such as social and economic status, IQ, timing of puberty or a diagnosis of learning disabilities.

The study showed that physically fit children have more fibrous and compact white matter tracts in certain regions of the brain, including the corpus callosum, superior longitudinal fasciculus and superior corona radiate. All three regions play significant roles in cognitive tasks like attention and memory.

According to researchers, the findings provide evidence that regular aerobic exercise positively changes children’s brains and improves cognitive function, which may explain why active children tend to outperform their inactive peers on cognitive tasks and in the classroom.

The study’s authors said they are in the second year of a five-year randomized, controlled trial to determine whether white-matter tract integrity improves in children who begin and maintain a new fitness routine.

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