Children’s Brain Development Is Linked to Physical Fitness

Researchers have found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9- and 10-year-old children: Those who are more fit tend to have a bigger hippocampus and perform better on a test of memory than their less-fit peers.

The new study, which used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the relative size of specific structures in the brains of 49 child subjects, appears in the journal Brain Research.

When they analyzed the MRI data, the researchers found that the physically fit children tended to have bigger hippocampal volume -- about 12 percent bigger relative to total brain size -- than their out-of-shape peers. The children who were in better physical condition also did better on tests of relational memory -- the ability to remember and integrate various types of information -- than their less-fit peers.

The new findings suggest that interventions to increase childhood physical activity could have an important effect on brain development, Kramer said.

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