Researchers at Dartmouth College say these findings suggest that schools serving low-income students should work brief bouts of exercise into their daily schedules.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, compared low-income adolescents with their high-income peers. While both groups saw improvement in selective visual attention up to 45 minutes after exercising, the low-income group experienced a bigger jump, according to the researchers.
Selective visual attention is the ability to remain visually focused on something despite distractions, researchers explained.
Unlike the high-income students, the low-income students also improved on tests of reading comprehension following the physical activity, according to the researchers.
Study author Michele Tine, Ph.D., an assistant professor of education and principal investigator in the Poverty and Learning Lab at Dartmouth, said she suspects the two groups responded differently to exercise because they experience different levels of stress in their daily lives.
“Low-income individuals experience more stress than high-income individuals, and stress impacts the same physiological systems that acute aerobic exercise activates,” Tine said. “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 recent study is a follow-up to one Tine published in 2012. That study found that brief aerobic exercise improved selective visual attention among children, with low-income participants experiencing the biggest improvement.
Tine’s latest study shows the effect holds true for adolescents, noting the participants ranged in age from 17 to 21.
The new study also explores exercise’s effects on reading comprehension, an important research area because the gap between low- and high-income adolescents’ reading comprehension is growing steadily, she noted.
Source: Dartmouth College