How do you boost kids' brain power? Make them sweat!

A study at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, recommends that in order to boost kids' brain power, children need high intensity interval training or HIIT. 

Parents are constantly worried about the best way to make their kids stronger, healthier, and smarter. Of course, parents are especially concerned about how to boost kids’ brain power so they can do well in school. How do we do this?

Three words: make them sweat.

A study at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, recommends that to boost kids’ brain power, children need high intensity interval training, or HIIT. The study found that HIIT can help kids perform better on tasks that require working memory and cognitive control.

HIIT consists of short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by brief intervals of low-intensity activity.

HIIT the ground running

Led by doctors David Moreau and Karen E. Waldie, the researchers studied 318 children between the ages of seven and 13 years old.

They split the children between one group that underwent high intensity interval training (HIIT), and a control group that did not. The HIIT group were tasked to engage in 10-minute workouts every day for a period of six weeks.

“Our study highlights the importance of short and intense physical workouts to improve brain power,” Moreau said.

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Meaningful improvements in children

The researchers assigned memory and cognitive tasks for both groups and the results were revealing. The group that underwent HIIT workouts performed better than the group that did not.

“Previous studies have suggested that long, sustained workout sessions, performed at a moderate intensity for 30 to 40 minutes, are most beneficial to learning and memory,” said lead author Moreau, in an interview with the Daily Mail.

“We wanted to see if short, intense bursts of exercise could also lead to meaningful cognitive improvements in children, and whether the effect of exercise on the brain is different depending on physical health and other individual characteristics.”

The results of the research were published in the August 2017 issue of eLife.

Two ways to boost kids’ brain power

The researchers gave the children six tasks in two categories, one for working memory and another for cognitive control.

For example, one working memory task was the classic game of Concentration (also known as Match Match and Pairs). The game’s objective is to flip cards to find matching pairs until they reveal all of the cards.

Tasks for cognitive control required interpreting information without letting bias or impulse colour your judgment. The researchers showed children colour words that did not match the colours they were written in. The children were then asked to read the words out loud correctly.

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Time to HIIT it

After the six tasks, the researchers sent children at random to do either 10 minutes of HIIT or play educational video games. Then, they would do another round of six memory and cognitive control tasks.

Over a span of six weeks, the researchers found that HIIT does indeed boost kids’ brain power. The HIIT kids did much better on the second set of six tasks than the kids who played video games.

They also found that brief intervals of intense exercise are just as effective as longer workouts. This is great for kids, as longer workouts take time away from a child’s activity-filled day.

How schools can help

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This study on how we can help boost kids’ brain power is an important discovery that can change the way schools teach physical education or deal with break time.

While change in schools won’t come quick, it’s still good to put this into practice with your kids. You can also talk to your school at the next PTA meeting and bring up the subject. It’s a great idea on how to boost kids’ brain power for the foreseeable future.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: 8 Fun games you can play with your kids when you’re too tired to move.