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New Research Suggests Physical Activity at Age 10 May Impact Brain Development in Adolescence

A recent study has shed light on the potential influence of physical activity during late childhood on brain development during early adolescence. The research, which involved a 4-year longitudinal cohort study in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, examined the association between physical activity levels at age 10 and subsequent changes in brain morphology.

Key Findings:

  • A cohort of 1088 children, including 566 girls, participated in the study.
  • Participants who engaged in more physical activity at age 10 demonstrated larger increases in amygdala volume from ages 10 to 14.
  • Similar but less consistent findings were observed in the hippocampus.
  • The study found no significant associations between physical activity and global brain morphology measures.


These findings suggest that physical activity during late childhood may influence the neurodevelopment of specific subcortical brain areas, including the amygdala and the hippocampus. These areas play essential roles in functions such as cognition, emotion, learning, and potentially psychiatric disorders. While the research adds to the growing body of knowledge on the benefits of physical activity, it also highlights the need for further studies to explore the causal relationship between physical activity and brain development.


The results of this study may have implications for public health and education policies, indicating that encouraging physical activity in late childhood could promote healthy brain development in adolescents. The combination of physical education, active recess, and integrating movement throughout the school day may serve as an effective public health intervention.

However, it’s important to note that this research is observational and does not establish a causal link. Future randomized controlled trials (RCTs) will be needed to experimentally investigate the causal relationship between physical activity and brain development.

This study opens the door to further research on the impact of physical activity on brain development, with potential implications for improving cognitive functions, academic performance, and overall well-being in children and adolescents.

Source: JAMA Network Open journal