After-school exercise yields brain gains

Sept. 29, 2014, HealthDay

By Tara Haelle

Regular daily exercise appears to improve children’s attention and multitasking skills, according to a new study.

Elementary school-age students who participated in an after-school program with plenty of physical activity showed greater improvements in several areas of so-called “executive function” than similar students who did not participate.

Executive function refers to a range of mental or “cognitive” skills that include memory, focus, attention, and the ability to switch back and forth between tasks.

Lead researcher Charles Hillman said that students who had the highest attendance in the program saw the biggest gains in mental skills. Continue reading

Lower IQ, worse heart fitness in teens linked to risk of early dementia in men

March 17, 2014, HealthDay

Having a lower IQ or poorer fitness at age 18 might increase a man’s risk of developing dementia before age 60, a new study suggests.

The analysis of data from 1.1 million Swedish men suggested that the risk of early onset dementia was 2.5 times higher in those with poorer heart fitness, four times higher in those with a lower IQ, and seven times higher in those with both risk factors.

The men were first tested as part of Sweden’s national military service conscription and followed for up to 42 years.

The increased dementia risk remained even when the University of Gothenburg researchers took into account other risk factors, such as socioeconomic status and medical and family history, according to the study, which was published online recently in the journal Brain. Continue reading

Playing high school sports associated with better health and fitness in old age

Jan. 1, 2014, Huffington Post

If you played high-school sports, your future self may thank you.

A new study shows that playing sports in high school is a predictor of whether a man in his 70s will be fit and healthy.

The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, shows that elderly men needed to visit their doctors fewer times a year if they played high school sports. Plus, men who played high school sports were more likely to exercise 50 years later than those who didn’t play high school sports. Continue reading

Kids worldwide are less fit than their parents were, study shows

Nov. 19, 2013, Fox News

Today’s kids can’t keep up with their parents. An analysis of studies on millions of children around the world finds they don’t run as fast or as far as their parents did when they were young.

On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.

The American Heart Association (AHA) conference, which featured the research, says it’s the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the last three decades.

“It makes sense. We have kids that are less active than before,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician and spokesman for the AHA. Continue reading