Exercise Increases Brain Function In Children

Recent research published by the medical journal Pediatrics, recently found that children who participate in a regular physical activity program showed a significant enhancement of cognitive performance and increased brain function.  Not only did the study reveal a wide improvement for all children, but it also revealed that mental exercises to build a child’s attention span show promise as an alternative to amphetamines to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

University of Illinois professor Charles Hillman recently published research results which ”demonstrate a casual effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.”


If you are scratching your head because its odd to you that this topic still being reviewed, well – it is. Physical activity amongst children, especially at an early age is not only beneficial to their coordination development and aerobic capacity, but it also is a time tested and proven strategy that has increased benefits for those children who have hyperactive disorders.

This research is still being published as a novel finding because of the one reason that inspired Fit Kids to start its mission – Exercise programs for kids remain underfunded and under prioritized in many school curricula despite being vital for teachers to maximize the finite amount of time they have with the students each day in class.  Fit Kids is working to combat the trend of declining fitness programs through offering two different types of science-based curriculum programs designed to reach children across the United States, which you can read more about here.

Electrophysiological results revealing brain processing capacity and mental workload (P3 amplitude) during cognitive tasks that require executive control in children in the experiment and control groups. Red represents the greatest amplitude, and blue the lowest.
(Hillman et al, Pediatrics)

The improvements in the study came in multiple areas including consisted of inhibition (resisting distractions & maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks).  The images on the left reveal the results from the brain activity amongst the children that participated in the program as opposed to those who didn’t.  The side-by-side comparison revealed results between the two groups that are so dramatically significant that are borderline disturbing.  Despite only being a nine month study, the results reveal that children who exercise are experiencing increased brain function and development during a time that is vital in a child’s life.

More studies are finding that exercise has a direct impact on test scores, especially with children that show signs of having ADHD because of the impaired functioning tied to math and reading performance with ADHD.  A recent study from Alan Smith, chair of the department of kinesiology at Michigan State University, found that a 12-week exercise program (comparable to the Fit Kids 12-week exercise program) improved all students math and reading test scores in the program.  This led Dr. Smith to issue a press statement saying that “Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD.”


Similar studies have been popping up recently that support Dr. Smith’s statement.  In 2015, the Journal of Attention Disorders revealed through an 8 week study that just 26 minutes of physical activity each day dramatically curbed the symptoms of ADHD in grade-school children.  The conclusion from the study revealed that “physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children” and the results should be “carefully explored with further studies.”  The study went on to comment that “If physical activity is established as an effective intervention for ADHD, it will also be important to address possible complementary effects of physical activity and existing treatment strategies …”


Why is these findings significant? Because exercise is showing conclusive results that it is the answer when it comes to combating the growing trend of prescriptions that are being issued to children across the United States (to the tune of 48.4 million in 2011). The pharmaceutical market around the ADHD disorder has grown to a multi-billion dollar industry in recent years while school fitness programs have shown declining results year over year.  This alarming trend can be addressed by implementing school fitness programs into your school by providing your students the science-based curriculum of Fit Kids.  Over a 12 week period, Fit Kids provides the curriculum and equipment for 24 one-hour classes that provide a fun & challenging fitness environment.  Each Fit Kids class also hones around two central themes that introduce strong community values (such as integrity, teamwork, sportsmanship, work ethic, and positivity) and healthy nutrition tips & food choices.

Fit Kids programs help children develop balance, hand-eye coordination, strength, and increase their aerobic capacity.


Studies conducted by Paul Nystedt (professor of economics and finance at Jönköping University in Sweden) reveal that obese teenagers earn 18% less money as adults than their peers because of the increased adversity that obese children face with classmates, eventually leading to cognitive and non-cognitive gap between obese and non-obese children.  Nystedt also concluded that childhood obesity broadens wealth gaps and curbs mobility and concludes that “The rapid increase in childhood and adolescent obesity could have long-lasting effects on the economic growth and productivity of nations.”

Since 2011, Fit Kids has been working to combat the alarming trend of widening opportunity gaps and childhood obesity through providing after-school and satellite fitness programs for children in underserved communities.  It is Fit Kids’ mission to inspire children to adopt a lifestyle of love for fitness and a healthy lifestyle through a fun & challenging science-based curriculum packed with nutritional education and strong community values.


If you would like to donate to the Fit Kids Foundation to give children an increased opportunity to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, please visit our donation page.

To request more information about Fit Kids programs for your school or community organization, please contact us.