You know your children love to run amok and as soon as you unleash them on the playground, they’re running off to climb, jump, skip, and crawl. All that play though may be serving a greater purpose than just fun. What has research uncovered about the effects of exercise on the brain? A review of 111 recent studies suggests that aerobic exercise is vitally important during childhood, not just for bodily health but also for improved cognitive ability. Physical inactivity has been linked to poorer academic performance while exercise improved memory, attention, decision making, multi-tasking, planning, inhibition (aka self control), and increasing the volume of brain structures important for memory. In animal studies, exercise was observed to change the brain structure, causing new nerve cells and blood vessels to grow, and increasing the production of neurochemicals that promote the growth, differentiation, survival, and repair of brain cells. It’s unfortunate that low budgets and an emphasis on test preparation in many schools has eliminated recess and gym from the schedule for many children. While playing jump-rope doesn’t mean children will automatically know how to convert decimals to fractions, the improved memory, attention, decision-making and inhibition resulting from exercise will help them to be more poised to learn and retain information better. So go ahead, let ‘em run wild!