Children who are physically fit might have better language skills than their peers who are less fit, new research suggests.
University of Illinois researchers found these kids have faster and
stronger brain responses during reading, which results in better reading
performance and language comprehension.
“Our study shows that the
brain function of higher-fit kids is different, in the sense that they
appear to be able to better allocate resources in the brain towards
aspects of cognition [thinking] that support reading comprehension,”
study leader Charles Hillman, a kinesiology and community health
professor at the University of Illinois, explained in a university news
The researchers noted that their findings do not prove physical
fitness (as measured by oxygen uptake during exercise) directly affects
the electrical activity of the brain. They did suggest that it provides a
possible explanation for the association between fitness and improved
performance on certain tests of brain function.
“All we know is
there is something different about higher- and lower-fit kids,”
explained Hillman. “Now, whether that difference is caused by fitness or
maybe some third variable that [affects] both fitness and language
processing, we don’t know yet.”
In conducting the study, the
researchers used electrodes to measure brain activity. Brain waves
associated with different tasks vary from one person to the next. They
also depend on the type of activity or stimulus.
published recently in the journal Brain and Cognition, focused on brain
waves associated with word recognition and grammar.
showed that being fit was linked with stronger brain wave activity in
these two areas when reading normal or nonsensical sentences. The
researchers suggested that’s why the fit kids could process information
more quickly than less fit kids their own age.
pointed out that more studies are needed to investigate the link between
improved brain function and physical fitness in children.