Immediately before children in Naperville, Illinois, sit down to take standardized tests, they are routinely led on an invigorating walk outdoors.
The school district, which ranks among the top 40 in the U.S., recognizes that exercise improves intellectual performance, says Charles Hillman, a Northeastern professor of psychology and physical therapy, movement, and rehabilitation sciences, who serves as associate director of the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health.
Hillman’s research has found that children in general experience a jump in cognitive performance in the hour immediately following exercise.The exception to this rule is children with obesity, as affirmed by 2020 research. Among children ages 8 to 11, Hillman’s center found that those with a higher body mass index failed to realize a cognitive gain following 20 minutes of exercise on a treadmill.
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Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University.