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Exercise 'boosts kids' brain power'

Press AssociationPress Association 27/06/2016

Allowing children time away from classrooms to exercise and run around boosts their brain power, a team of international experts has said.

A consensus statement signed by 24 researchers from eight countries, including the UK, says exercise is vital to children's physical and mental health and improves academic results.

Experts from universities in centres including Birmingham, Chester, London and Exeter agreed on a series of 21 separate remarks about the power of physical activity for children.

Published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the statement says "time taken away from academic lessons in favour of physical activity has been shown to not come at the cost of scholastic performance".

It says "physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are beneficial to brain structure, brain function and cognition" and "physical activity before, during and after school promotes scholastic performance in children and youth".

Just a single session of moderate exercise has been shown to have an "acute benefit" on brain function, cognition and academic performance in children, while there are also many benefits in terms of mental health, the statement added.

Self-esteem as well as relationships with other children, parents and teachers are enhanced by the benefits of exercise, which also promotes social inclusion.

Furthermore, sports and physical activity programmes that follow a plan or a curriculum help children develop life skills such as being able to moderate one's own behaviour, as well as teaching values such as respect, the statement said.

Experts from the UK, Scandinavia and North America were among those to back the statement.

It looked at both structured physical activity and more unstructured forms - such as free play - on the health of children aged six to 18.

One section points to the physical benefits of exercise for children, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes in adulthood, adding that "physical activity is important in the treatment of many chronic diseases in children and youth".

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