It's official. Biking to school makes girls smarter. A recent study in Spain examined the effects of biking and walking to school compared with riding in a car or bus. Of the 1700 high schoolers aged 13 to 18.5 who particpated in the study, about 65% either biked or walked to school.
The study determined that girls who bike or walk to school scored higher on verbal, numeric, and reasoning abilities. The study also found that those with a bike/walk commute longer than 15 minutes score higher than the students who only biked/walked for 15 minutes or less. The same results were not found in the male subjects.
Suggested reasons for the higher scores from the girl bikers include:
1. more oxygen to the brain
2. biking may take longer than a car ride-thus there is time to reflect and prepare for the day
3. the outside environment stimulates the brain compared to a person sitting in a car or bus
I can't say that I am surprised by the findings. Some of my best studying has taken place on long runs. There is something about exercise that clears my head and I am able to organize and memorize information better. It's also a lot less frustrating going through information in my head when exercising rather than sitting at a desk. Like most people, I also notice more energy and a sense of relaxed-ness after commuting to work by bike.
Maybe the kids in the study were able to score higher on the tests because they were better prepared to sit and listen to directions compared with other students who were just sitting on a bus or in a car. When I used to teach 5th grade, students were very slow in the mornings and took a while to wake up. On the other hand, after we would come in from a fun soccer game at recess, or after the mile run, they were tired for a minute or two but then I noticed they were able to work very dilligently for long periods of time and there were way less behaivoral issues after exercise. Also in terms of behavior, the kids who played the hardest at recess were generally the best behaved. Winter cold/snow days with indoor recesses made for very long days.
I also noticed that my energy level as a teacher increased after playing soccer outside at recess. I always told myself if I stopped teaching I would model my work day after an elementary school day with at least one short "recess" and one long recess after lunch.
Moral of the story. Exercise and you will get smarter and more fit.