A recent study examined the effects of a two-year diet and physical activity intervention on cognition among 397 Finnish elementary school children. The associations of dietary factors, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour with cognition over two years were also studied. The analyses considered parental education and income as well as children’s body fat percentage and maturity level.
“Children with healthier eating habits showed greater cognitive development than other children. Specifically, better overall diet quality, lower red meat consumption, and higher low-fat dairy product intake were linked to better reasoning skills,” says Doctoral Researcher Sehrish Naveed of the University of Eastern Finland.
Children who spent more time in reading and organized sports showed better reasoning skills than their peers. On the other hand, excessive time spent on a computer and unsupervised leisure-time physical activity were associated with poorer reasoning skills. Screen time, active school transportation, recess physical activity, and physical activity intensity were not associated with reasoning skills.
“In the lives of growing children, diet and physical activity intervention is just one factor influencing lifestyle and reasoning skills. Based on our study, investing in a healthy diet and encouraging children to read are beneficial for the development of reasoning skills among children. Additionally, engaging in organized sports appears to support reasoning skills," Dr Eero Haapala points out.
Over half of the children participated in a two-year family-based and individualised diet and physical activity intervention. However, the intervention did not impact reasoning skills, with the children in the intervention and control groups exhibiting similar cognitive development. Published in the esteemed Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, the results of this study are based on data from the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study.
This research reminds us that daily practice of good habits (diet, reading and sports) can help children do measurably better in cognitive skills. Interestingly this study showed that daily sports exercise was even more useful than daily reading practice! The StepUp software programs are built around our knowledge of the important role of movement in learning. Daily whole-body coordination exercises and integrated academic skills help children develop the fluent skills they need for independent learning.
Note by Nancy W. Rowe, M.S., CCC/A
Reposted from University of Eastern Finland