By Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, RD, CDN

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in children in the United States has tripled since the 1970s, approximately 20% of children between the ages of 6-19 are obese, and less than 25% of children are getting the recommended 60 minutes per day of moderated exercise recommended by the American Medical Association.

With the emergence of new technology the amount of physical activity that children engage in has decreased dramatically over the years. No longer are kids jumping rope, playing catch or hop scotch while waiting for the bus. They are now checking out their phones for messages, photos or videos. In addition, many schools have decreased gym classes and even recess where kids can engage in free time due to higher academic demands.

We know that exercise and activity is important to help prevent obesity and its associated health consequence, but what about the importance of exercise and activity on our children’s brain.  Research has shown that exercise and activity helps to improve the cognitive function of the brain and some studies have shown helps increase reading and math scores as well as helping with attention spans in children. Exercise helps to increase the hippocampus and the basal ganglia, both structures of the brain which are involved with learning in children.

Studies have shown that engaging in a “dynamic” morning exercise program helped students double their reading scores. Another study showed that children walking 20 minutes at a moderate pace on a treadmill were able to respond better to spelling, reading and math questions as compared to the students who remained sitting. Children who engaged in regular physical activity and at a higher fitness levels achieved better academic performance and had improved attention spans and memory.

Long-term research has shown that an increase in physical activity and more time at school allotted for gym resulted in an improvement in academic performance. Also, it is interesting to note that one study showed that having gym classes in the morning or early midday was more beneficial with regards to learning as compared to having gym at the end of the day.

The take-home message is that activity and exercise for kids are not only fun and games but crucial in the development of their brain, which may influence their academic success. So pencils, paper and computers may be necessities but they don’t replace the importance of gym, recess and overall play.

Get out and have some fun!!!!!!


Daphne Baldwin Kornrich has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for the past 30 years, working in a wide variety of clinical and outpatient settings. Daphne currently specializes in bariatrics and weight management.