Small Breaks for Exercise Can Improve School Attentiveness for Low-Income Teens

A new study by researchers at Dartmouth University finds that 12 minutes of exercise can improve attention and reading comprehension in low-income adolescents. The researchers say the findings suggest that schools with low income populations should include exercise periods into their daily schedules.

The study compared low-income adolescents with high-income peers. Both groups saw improvement in their ability to pay attention despite distractions for up to 45 minutes after exercising but the low-income group had a bigger jump. And the low-income students also improved on tests of reading comprehension following the physical activity, but the high-income students did not.

Michele Tine, the lead author of the study who is an assistant professor of education and principal investigator in the Poverty and Learning Lab at Dartmouth says she suspects the two groups respond to exercise differently because they experience different levels of stress in life.

“Low-income individuals experience more stress than high-income individuals, and stress impacts the same physiological systems that acute aerobic exercise activates,” said Tine. “Physiological measures were beyond the scope of this study, but low-income participants did report experiencing more stress. Alternatively, it is possible that low-income individuals improved more simply because they had more room to improve.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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