Even moderate exercise, like walking, could make your kids sharper, healthier, and happier.
"Exercise has tremendous mental benefits," says Joel Brenner, MD, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Studies show that kids who exercise get better grades, have better concentration, and get more restful sleep.
Better thinking skills. Studies show that people who exercise more are sharper mentally. The effects may be almost immediate. One study found that kids scored higher on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising for 20 minutes.
More confidence. Studies have found that kids who do athletics are more confident. In turn, that confidence may improve their academic performance, too. Active kids tend to get better grades. Though there could be a lot of reasons for that, including brain benefits, part of it may be better self-confidence.
Better moods. Many studies have found that kids who exercise feel happier. Physical activity releases brain chemicals that are natural stress fighters. Just about any physical activity seems to help. Physically active kids are better at managing their moods and have fewer mood swings, too.
Sounder sleep. Kids who exercise regularly fall asleep faster than other kids. They also stay asleep longer. The more vigorous the activity, the bigger the sleep benefit. Getting enough sleep lifts moods, improves judgment, and boosts memory.
How Much Exercise Makes a Difference?
Your kid doesn't have to be a track star or medal-winning gymnast to feel the brain-boosting and other benefits of exercise. Even moderate activity -- riding a bike or even walking -- seems to help.
Help your kids benefit from exercise:
Get an hour of exercise a day. That's what the CDC recommends for kids ages 6 to 18. Your kids can split up activity over the course of the day. A few minutes here and there adds up.