A new study has found that 12 minutes of exercise can improve attention and reading comprehension in adolescents.

In the paper, all kids saw improvement in selective visual attention up to 45 minutes after exercising. Selective visual attention is the ability to remain visually focused on something despite distractions. The Lower income students also improved on tests of reading comprehension following the physical activity, though high-income students did not.

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This study is a follow-up to one that study author Michele Tine, assistant professor of education at Dartmouth, published in 2012. It found that brief aerobic exercise improved selective visual attention among children, also with low-income participants experiencing the biggest improvement.

Reading comprehension as a function of exercise and income level. Correlation analyses were also run to determine the relationship between reading comprehension scores and immediate posttest scores for different participant groups. A set of Fisher-X transformation tests determined if the correlations for different participant groups were significantly different from one another. The correlation between reading comprehensions scores and immediate posttest scores was statistically significant for low-income participants in both the experimental and control condition (p < 0.005 in both cases). This was not the case for high-income participants; the correlation between reading comprehension and immediate posttest scores was not statistically significant for high-income participants in the experimental or control condition (p > 0.05 in both cases).

The new study shows the effect holds true for adolescents (participants this time ranged from 17 to 21) and also explores exercise's effects on reading comprehension, an important research area because the gap between low- and high-income adolescents' reading comprehension had closed dramatically under No Child Left Behind but since its removak has been growing steadily.

Citation: Michele Tine, Acute aerobic exercise: an intervention for the selective visual attention and reading comprehension of low-income adolescents, Front. Psychol., 11 June 2014 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00575