|Walk to School Day 2011, Henrico, Virginia (Photo credit: VaDOT)|
Encouraging your teenager to walk to school can help them do better in class - especially if they’re female. This is from the Daily Mail …
A study has suggested that a pupil’s cognitive performance may be improved if they walk to school rather than be driven in, and girls are more likely to benefit from this than boys.
The new research, published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found performance at school among teenage girls who take a walk to the classroom is better than those who travel by bus or car.
Females who took 15 minutes or longer to walk in outperformed those who live in closer proximity.
The University of Granada, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Zaragoza and the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid embarked on the joint project and discovered the link between physical activity and performance in class.
Researchers used a sample of 1,700 boys and girls aged between 13 and 18 in five Spanish cities through the Food and Assessment of the Nutritional Status of Spanish Adolescents study.
The authors outlined that plasticity of the brain is greatest in teenage years. They wrote that during adolescence, ‘the plasticity of the brain is greater than at any other time of life, which makes it the opportune period to stimulate cognitive function.’
However this is also the period of life where physical activity declines most, too, and this is greatest in girls. Therefore researchers outlined that: ‘Inactive adolescents could be missing out on a very important stimulus to improve their learning and cognitive performance.’
Dr Frank Eves, a Chartered Psychologist, suggests there are two points that urge caution about the potentially interesting result, reported the British Psychological Society.
‘The study suggests not only that active travel may be related to cognitive performance in girls but also that greater effects may occur for durations of 15 minutes of more,’ he said.
But Dr Eves pointed out that while the improvement seemed to correlate directly with the increased activity pre-school, circumstances surrounding the lifestyles and upbringing of those girls that walked to school could also have a bearing on how well the girls performed.
That is to say, it is not certain that the increased activity is the sole factor in the improved results.
‘The data are cross-sectional and do not allow any interpretation in terms of the direction of the effect. It is quite possible that parents who actively encourage their daughters to be healthy - i.e. get sufficient physical activity - also actively encourage them with their school work'.
Dr Eves also noted that increased walking had been seen to improve cognitive function in elderly women too. But Dr Eves says that more experimental studies are required to truly assess the benefits of walking on mental health.
If the basis of this article is correct, and we already know girls are lagging behind in exercise at school, might one option be to include walking within the school day, instead, perhaps, of trying to get girls to participate in PE? Let us know what you think in the comments or on twitter …