A child's attention and memory improves after exercise according to new research conducted with primary school pupils and supported by the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh .

In the present study, more than 11,000 school pupils across the UK conducted a scientific investigation to discover the impact of taking a short break from the classroom to complete a physical activity on their mood and cognitive abilities.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests that short breaks involving physical activity can boost concentration and happiness in pupils," explained Dr. Naomi Brooks, of the University of Stirling's Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport.

"Ultimately, we found that 15 minutes of self-paced exercise can significantly improve a child's mood , attention, and memory – enhancing their ability to learn."

A total of 13,149 children enrolled in the study were asked to answer questions about how happy and awake they were feeling, before completing attention and memory tasks on a computer. Children completed the tasks both before and after they participated in each of three outdoor activities of varying intensities:

  1. A bleep test: This was the most intense activity, where the children ran in time with bleeps, which got gradually quicker until they felt close to exhaustion.
  2. A run / walk activity: This was of intermediate intensity where the children ran or walked at a speed of their own choice for 15 minutes.
  3. A control activity: This was the least intense activity where the children went outside to sit or stand for 15 minutes. This was used to compare whether the physical activity had a greater impact than simply going outside.

Compared to the control, children reported feeling more awake after taking a break and doing exercise for a short time. Both the bleep test and the run / walk made participants feel more awake than the control activity, although they felt most awake after the run / walk.

The children also said they felt better after doing the run / walk but reported no difference in the way they felt after completing the bleep test, compared to the control activity.

Children responded quicker to the task after completing the run / walk, compared to the control and bleep test activities, and were better at controlling their responses after doing the run / walk and bleep test than they were after the control activity.

Following the run / walk, children's ability to remember words in sentences improved, while there was no difference between the bleep test and control activity. However, there appeared to be no real difference to their ability to remember shapes.

"Overall, our study concluded that exercising leads to improvements in children's mood and cognition ," said Dr. Colin Moran, of the University of Stirling's Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport.

Dr. Josie Booth of the University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education said, "This suggests that children should be encouraged to exercise at their own pace during short breaks from class. classroom. "