Enhance Your Thinking: Read More, Play Organized Sports

Aug 30, 2023

Thought Question: What activities or habits could you incorporate into your day that might help you become better at reasoning and understanding?

If you want to boost your brain, join a sports team, eat less red meat, and pick up a book. Those are findings from a new study in Finland. Playing video games for hours on end does not lead to the same benefits.

Researchers in Finland looked at the exercise, diet, and reading time of 504 Finnish elementary school-aged children. They ran the study over a two-year span. They found that children who played organized sports and read more scored higher on tests of thinking skills. They also found that kids who spent a lot of unsupervised time on a computer playing video games performed less well on thinking tests. 

Research in recent years has shown that children are becoming less active. Experts at the World Health Organization reviewed a number of similar studies in 2016. They found that 8 in 10 children between 11- and 17-years-old were not active enough.

It wasn't just any exercise that seemed to affect test scores. Joining organized sports was key, the Finnish study found. Exercise during recess did not improve reasoning skills, according to Science Daily.  

Diet also seems to affect brain development, the study found. Eating less red meat and having a lower-fat diet improved thinking skills.  

Dr. Ero Haapala told Science Daily that a healthy diet and reading help build thinking skills. Also, "organized sports appears to support reasoning skills.”

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Acton Crawford.

Based on the details in the story, which of the following activities may result in performing lower on reasoning ability tests? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. reading more
b. engaging in organized sports
c. consuming a diet lower in red meats and fats
d. spending too much unsupervised time playing video games
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