For a long time, many people make the distinctions between jocks and nerds. The jocks (those who are into sports) will never be as academically inclined as the nerds (those who study more). However, this study may disprove this myth.

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What They Found

A recent study studied 48 children by having them completed a maximal oxygen-uptake fitness test on a treadmill. Half of the children (the higher-fit kids) were at or above the 70th percentile for aerobic fitness, and half (the lower-fit kids) were at or below the 30th percentile. The researchers imaged the children’s brains using MRI, and tested their math, reading and spelling skills using the Wide Range Achievement Test-3, which correlates closely with academic achievement in these fields.

They found that higher-fit 9- and 10-year-olds show a decrease in gray-matter thickness in certain areas of the brain and that aerobic fitness may play a role in this cortical thinning. Cortical thinning is a vital development of brain structures closely associated with higher math achievements. However, there were no significant fitness-associated differences in reading or spelling aptitude detected.

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In fact, bray-matter loss during child development is part of healthy maturation of a fully-formed, healthy brain.

As the brain becomes more equipped with better reasoning and thinking skills, the brain cuts out unnecessary gray matter by thinning and strengthening the remaining ones.

(Interestingly, a scene from the film “Inside Out” portrays this trimming where Riley’s memory trimmed away phone numbers as they were stored in phones display this.)

What does This Mean?

Simply put, if your child is requesting to exercise or be involved in more sports during the critical year of PSLE or O/N Levels- relax yourself and let them go. Your child needs to exercise by engaging in aerobic exercises before their brain is able to absorb new material for math.

Furthermore, there has been a decrease of physical activity in schools and more students are eschewing exercise to lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Your child may not feel or even sense the importance of exercise in their lives and rather prefer to skip them.

Encourage your child to take a walk outside or even move to the beat of their favourite songs. As long as your child is able to maintain a balance between sports and studies, your child will be able to do just fine.