Studies on animals have already confirmed that exercise like running can improve brain function and allow animals to test higher on animal intelligence tests. A new study involving young kids ages 9 and 10 looked at how exercise impacts their growing brains. The exercise study tested the least and most fit students in a group, in order to look at the greatest contrast of exercise impact. The fitness experience involved treadmill running, and then the kids completed a series of cognitive tests. There were also brain scans using MRI to measure the volume of certain brain areas pre and post treadmill running.
Prior studies had already confirmed that kids who exercise do perform better on tests, when compared to a sedentary control group. The MRI portion of this particular experiment actually highlighted how fitness impacts the brain. Specifically, the basal ganglia of the brain which mediates attention and "executive control" or the ability to coordinate thoughts with actions, was larger in the fit children who exercised somewhat consistently. Another separate experiment, that used similar testing parameters and children, showcased that the hippocampus was larger in the fittest kids. The hippocampus is involved in complex memory.
So at a time when school budgets clearly do not seem to have dollars for support of regular PE classes or even extracurricular fitness opportunities, and when US kids are showcasing poor testing scores, these studies seem to indicate that we are missing out on an easy way to get kid's brains working optimally. One Iowa study showed that kids who walk just 20 minutes before a test, helped to raise test scores, even if the kid's were overweight or de-conditioned. It should be obvious that the fitter the brain the higher the IQ. It should also make sense that exercising must help circulation and oxygen delivery to the brain. Another study, still unpublished showed that running improves test scores, while the control group who spent time only playing video games showed no improvement.