Was anybody else’s high school cross-country team pretty much the genius club as well? Off the top of my head I can think of several high school runners who were at the top of the honor roll. One was a finalist for a top scholarship at her first choice university, another was in the paper for knowing the digits of pi to 100 places (or maybe more . . .), and another developed a nearly-photographic memory. Aside from being both intelligent and athletic, they were very nice people. I don’t know if their niceness was connected to the running (although I kind of think it is — runners are generally very friendly people), but the running and the intelligence are probably linked.
Although it may be an open secret that fit kids do well in school, recent studies have shown why fit kids rise to the top of the class: exercise helps develop the hippocampus and the basal ganglia areas of a child’s brain. The hippocampus is responsible for the brain’s complex memory and the basal ganglia houses the part of the brain in charge of paying attention and the ability to coordinate thoughts and actions. Together, these parts of the brain are where most of the complex thinking is done. And exercise strengthens those regions, allowing them to work better and to work better together. Awesome.
Even small amounts of aerobic exercise before a test have been shown to improve test scores, but sustained efforts at fitness over many years can lead to a higher IQ, a better paying job, etc., according to a study done in Sweden. So next time your kids are having problems focusing in school or performing well on tests the best thing to do may be to have them run around the block for 20 minutes. Make it a habit and they’ll be on their way to being the brightest, fittest, most amiable kids in the school. They’ll probably be ridiculously good-looking and filthy rich besides. It may be too late for me (or maybe not), but it sure as heck isn’t too late for the menchildren. I just hope they remember to thank me when they win their Nobel Prizes.