Researchers to study links between exercise and improved intelligence
Issued: Thu, 02 Apr 2009 09:42:00 BST
Scientists at the University of Glasgow are investigating whether exercise may substantially improve brain function in children while helping prevent and treat obesity.
Researchers will combine data collected on physical activity and cognitive function in children to see if there is a link. Previous research has shown that modern children are very physically inactive, yet promotion of increased physical activity in children often fails.
The rationale behind this research is to test for cognitive benefits of physical activity in order to encourage children, parents, and schools to become more physically active.
The research team, headed by Professor John Reilly, a leading expert in childhood obesity, at the University of Glasgow will use information on activity levels collected from 6,000 members of the Children of the 90s study in Bristol. Activity levels, which were monitored every year from age 11, will be combined with cognitive measurements which examine memory, IQ and attention span, amongst other factors.
He will be working with colleagues at the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Strathclyde and Georgia, and has secured a £78,000 grant from the BUPA Foundation to conduct the study.
Prof Reilly said: “We know that exercise has many benefits for the body, but most of these are long-term and do not provide a strong incentive for children, families, or schools to exercise more. If we can find other, more immediate benefits of exercise we hope we can give people another reason to engage in physical activity.”
If a proven link is demonstrated the study could have important implications for schools, highlighting the academic gains that might be realised through more physical education in the curriculum.
Dr Reilly said: “There is plenty of anecdotal evidence amongst teachers, for example, that children who are more physically active have generally better cognitive function and are more focused on tasks at school. What we want to do is to see if we can establish that this is the case, to find out how much exercise it takes and how quickly results might be seen.”
“Previous studies with animals conducted at other institutions show a very strong link between exercise and improved cognitive function.
“We think positive correlations between exercise and cognitive function such as improved attention span, memory, ability to plan, multi-tasking and problem solving are also likely in children.
Professor Andy Ness, an expert in obesity research from the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol added: “The detailed data collected in the Children of the 90s will allow us to see if there is an important link between physical activity and cognitive function”.
The research is expected to take 15 months.
For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email email@example.com