Exercise is as important as diet in improving concentration among school children, a Danish study has discovered.
Researchers in Denmark examined the habits of nearly 20,000 children between the ages of 5 and 19 as part of the study. Participating students answered a few questions about how they got to school, and then performed a simple cognitive task (such as assembling a puzzle). The kids who had cycled or walked to school performed better than those who had been driven by their parents or ridden public transportation. Most surprisingly to researchers, the exercise helped improve concentration for about four hours after the walkers or cyclists arrived in the classroom.
Known as the “Mass Experiment 2012,” the study was conducted as part of Danish Science Week and involved the participation of scientists from Copenhagen and Aarhus universities. Exercise had a greater impact than diet on improving concentration. This finding caught Professor Niels Egelund of Aarhus University by surprise. “It is really interesting that the exercise you get from transporting yourself to school reflects on your ability to concentrate for about four hours into the school day,” reported Dr. Egelund. He elaborated, “As a third-grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone half a year further in their studies.”
Modern schools often are built in suburban neighborhoods that aren’t designed for transportation by walking or bicycling. Some parents are combating this trend by lobbying for cycling lanes or by organizing walking school buses, in which adults escort groups of children walking to school.
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+.