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If school is more than a couple of blocks away, it’s tempting to pack the kids in the car and drive, especially when you’re running late (often!) or the weather's cold. But a new study shows that when kids walk or ride their bikes to school, they may do better in class.
The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, looked at the commuting habits of teenage girls and boys and compared those who actively commuted to those who got a ride to school or took a bus or subway. Those girls who walked or biked had significantly higher scores in verbal and math tests than girls who didn’t, and those who walked or biked for more than 15 minutes performed better on the cognitive tests than those who actively commuted for less than 15 minutes. In other words, the more exercise they got before school, the better they did.
Curiously, boys did not show these benefits, but the researchers believe that’s because the boys they studied were more likely to participate after-school sports and were already seeing the benefits of their activity (boys scored higher than girls in three cognitive areas). The extra 15 minutes in the morning was a small percentage of their daily activity level.
Researchers have long believed that exercise helps the brain. Studies in the past have shown that exercise increases the formation of new neurons and stimulates nerve growth factors, improves blood flow to the brain, and enhances mood, concentration, memory, and behavior. That can translate to more focus in the classroom and a greater ability to learn, absorb information and take tests. So, while you may think you’re helping your kids out by giving them a lift or letting them sleep in an extra 15 minutes (the time it would take to walk), having them trudge to school -- even on cold winter days -- could help them more in the long run.
Do you walk your kids to school? Chime in below!