Fit Kids Are Smarter Kids

11/01/2011 06:37 pm ET | Updated Dec 31, 2011

"When done correctly, exercise produces a joy that enhances quality of life at any age"

A few years ago, as I began research for a book on fitness for children, I contacted several friends at CDC who were knowledgeable in that area. From the beginning, they suggested that I pursue the link between physical activity and academic performance. With their help I discovered a treasure trove of findings that resulted in a new title for my book: Fit Kids -- Smarter Kids.

Today's kids are under a serious health threat and yet many parents and teachers are letting them slide into ripe conditions for degenerative diseases. Many are blaming junk food and the fast food industry for this trend. But the research shows that kids today are not eating significantly more calories than kids 30 years ago. Today's kids just aren't burning nearly the calories of their counterparts, three decades ago.

Regular exercise not only burns off excess calories, it activates circuits to control appetite and triggers a series of health maintenance networks throughout the body. But the mental benefits may be more significant. A growing web of research shows that regular exercise stimulates new growth of brain cells, promotes quicker and better problem solving, activates the executive brain, and much more.

The studies continue to pile up showing that fit kids do better in school and in life. They study better, have more vitality, think better in class and score higher on tests. Fit kids pull themselves out of depression, have fewer discipline problems, don't tend to drop out of school and work better with other kids and adults.

Misguided are the political groups that are eliminating physical education from the classroom. They claim that this distracts children from the subjects of language, math and science, etc. But if they really want children to think better, learn better and test higher the research says that exercise is necessary.

Here are the key concepts learned as I researched Fit Kids - Smarter Kids.

1. Adult role models who exercise are the most powerful influence
2. Most kids want to be fit kids. They naturally want to move around, run, jump, exert, and glow from the exertion. If you've ever tried to stop a kid from moving around you know what I mean.
3. Fit kids have a better attitude. They are more cooperative and get along.
4. Fit kids have more fun The exertion from fitness (even when the exercise is gentle) energizes kids and adults and makes them more positive. Fun just happens when kids engage in these activities.
5. Fit kids are more responsible kids As children come to an agreement with parents, teachers, leaders or themselves, they start the process of being responsible people. The sample contracts in my book have been well received and used across the country.
6. Fit kids tend to eat good-tasting energizing food. They also tend to avoid over eating.
7. Positive reinforcement gets results. Recognizing kids for their efforts and accomplishments tells them that they are successful. Kids tend to do activities where they can succeed. Parents and teachers can find a way for every child to succeed in fitness.
8. Fit kids are smarter kids Any kid who wants to pursue the limitless benefits of fitness has to be a smart kid. Each child creates success each day through fitness activities.

Help a kid discover the joy of fitness today.