In addition to the purely physical benefits of exercise for overweight children, scientists from Georgia Health Sciences University say thinking and planning abilities were better among more active kids than among their sedentary peers.
Scores on standard intelligence tests were higher among a group of overweight 7 to 11 year olds who exercised 40 minutes per day after school, the researchers said, and functional magnetic resonance imaging showed increased activity in their prefrontal cortexes, indicating improved decision-making.
Dr. Katherine Davis of GHSU's health psychology unit said the findings were further proof of exercise's importance to growing kids.
"In kids you just don't know what impact you are going to have when you improve their ability to control their attention, to behave better in school, to make better choices. Maybe they will be more likely to stay in school and out of trouble," she said.
Additionally, since healthy kids tend to become healthy adults, children who exercise regularly could see unlooked-for benefits down the line, like lower rates on life insurance.