Get Active for Brain Benefits

This hot summer vacation is a great time for kids at home to, well, get out! Get them off the couch and encourage them to start moving around in the sun. With the beautiful weather in Hawaii they can enjoy their time outside – while keeping hydrated, of course. Moving around outside will strengthen their growing muscles, liven their moods and give them plenty of Vitamin D.

But there’s more to physical fitness than actual physical benefits. Multiple studies have suggested that higher levels of physical fitness can encourage the growth of a child’s brain in more ways than one. Think brain structure, brain function, cognition and academic school achievement. According to one scientific article:

“For example, higher fit children have larger brain volumes in the basal ganglia and hippocampus, which relate to superior performance on tasks of cognitive control and memory, respectively, when compared to their lower fit peers. Higher fit children also show superior brain function during tasks of cognitive control, better scores on tests of academic achievement, and higher performance on a real-world street crossing task, compared to lower fit and less active children.”1

Here are some ideas:

1.      Take the family out for a picnic. Kapiolani Park, Ala Moana Beach Park or other local parks are perfect places to enjoy a day in the sun. Pack up easy meals and snacks, a couple Frisbees to throw around, bicycles if you have them and let the kids enjoy themselves.

2.      Go hiking! Makapu’u Lighthouse and Diamond Head Crater are two easy, family-friendly hikes that have beautiful scenery. You can look online or search through a Hawaii hiking book to find more age-appropriate hikes.


3.      Find some tennis rackets, pick up some fresh tennis balls, and try your hand at tennis.


4.      We live in Hawaii, so a beach day is a must! Visit the closest beach, lather on the sun screen and keep hydrated as your kids play in the water. If your kids are old enough, bring a few body boards too or surf boards.


5.      For some of us, the hot sun can tire the kids out a little too much. After an early dinner, gather the kids (and the dog, if you have one!) out for a nice evening stroll and watch the sun set.


1Chaddock-Heyman L, Hillman CH, Cohen NJ, Kramer AF. The importance of physical activity and aerobic fitness for cognitive control and memory in children. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 2014 Dec;79(4):25-50.