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Your Child

What to Do If Your Child Is Choking

2.30 to read

It’s more common than you probably think. On average over 12,000 children a year, under the age of 14, are treated in hospital emergency rooms for food-related choking. That’s about 34 kids a day according to a new study.

The most common choking hazards appear to be hard candy, followed by other types of candy, then meat and bones. The study noted that most of the young patients were treated and released, but around 10 per cent were hospitalized.

"These numbers are high," said Dr. Gary Smith, who worked on the study at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

What's more, he added, "This is an underestimate. This doesn't include children who were treated in urgent care, by a primary care physician or who had a serious choking incident and were able to expel the food and never sought care."

The estimated 12,435 children ages 14 and younger that were treated for choking on food each year also doesn't include the average 57 pediatric food-choking deaths reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually, the researchers noted.

Smith and his colleagues analyzed injury surveillance data covering 2001 through 2009.

They found that babies one year old and younger accounted for about 38 percent of all childhood ER visits for choking on food. Many of those infants choked on formula or breast milk.

Children who choked on hotdogs, nuts and seeds were the most likely to be hospitalized.

"We know that because hot dogs are the shape and size of a child's airway that they can completely block a child's airway," Smith told Reuters Health, noting that seeds and nuts are also difficult to swallow when children put a lot in their mouths at once.

Supervision is the most important choking prevention. Parents or guardians should make sure that a small child’s food is cut up into manageable bites that can be easily chewed and swallowed. An example might be grapes and raisins. A whole raisin is probably okay to be given to a toddler, but a grape should be sliced.

What should you do if your child is choking?

For children ages 1 to 12:

1. Assess the situation quickly.

If a child is suddenly unable to cry, cough, or speak, something is probably blocking her airway, and you'll need to help her get it out. She may make odd noises or no sound at all while opening her mouth. Her skin may turn bright red or blue.

If she's coughing or gagging, it means her airway is only partially blocked. If that's the case, encourage her to cough. Coughing is the most effective way to dislodge a blockage. If the child isn't able to cough up the object, ask someone to call 911 or the local emergency number as you begin back blows and chest thrusts. If you're alone with the child, give two minutes of care, then call 911.

On the other hand, if you suspect that the child's airway is closed because her throat has swollen shut, call 911 immediately. She may be having an allergic reaction to the food.

Call 911 immediately is your child is turning blue, unconscious or appears to be in severe distress.

2. Try to dislodge the object with back blows and abdominal thrusts.

If a child is conscious but can't cough, talk, or breathe, or is beginning to turn blue, stand or kneel slightly behind him. Provide support by placing one arm diagonally across his chest and lean him forward.
Firmly strike the child between the shoulder blades with the heel of your other hand. Each back blow should be a separate and distinct attempt to dislodge the obstruction.

Give five of these back blows.

Then do abdominal thrusts

Stand or kneel behind the child and wrap your arms around his waist.

Locate his belly button with one or two fingers. Make a fist with the other hand and place the thumb side against the middle of the child's abdomen, just above the navel and well below the lower tip of his breastbone.
Grab your fist with your other hand and give five quick, upward thrusts into the abdomen. Each abdominal thrust should be a separate and distinct attempt to dislodge the obstruction.

Repeat back blows and abdominal thrusts Continue alternating five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the object is forced out or the child starts to cough forcefully. If he's coughing, encourage him to cough up the object.

If the child becomes unconscious If a child who is choking on something becomes unconscious, you'll need to do what's called modified CPR. Here's how to do modified CPR on a child:

Place the child on his back on a firm, flat surface. Kneel beside his upper chest. Place the heel of one hand on his sternum (breastbone), at the center of his chest. Place your other hand directly on top of the first hand. Try to keep your fingers off the chest by interlacing them or holding them upward.

Perform 30 compressions by pushing the child's sternum down about 2 inches. Allow the chest to return to its normal position before starting the next compression.

Open the child's mouth and look for an object. If you see something, remove it with your fingers. Next, give him two rescue breaths. If the breaths don't go in (you don't see his chest rise), repeat the cycle of giving 30 compressions, checking for the object, and trying to give two rescue breaths until the object is removed, the child starts to breathe on his own, or help arrives.

A good rule of thumb for parents and guardians is to take a CPR class. Many hospitals and clinics also offer classes on what to do if your child is choking.

Sources: Genevra Pittman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/29/us-choking-food-idUSBRE96S04K20130729

http://www.babycenter.com/0_first-aid-for-choking-and-cpr-an-illustrated-guide-for-child_11241.bc

 

Your Child

Common Chemicals Linked to Lower IQ in Kids

 Phthalates are chemicals used in thousands of every day products. They make plastics more flexible and difficult to break. They are also used in personal-care products such  as soaps, shampoos, hairsprays and nail polishers. There are several different types of phthalates.

 A new study suggests that two phthalate chemicals in particular, may be damaging to fetal development and could even lower children's IQs.

 The chemicals, Di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), are found in a wide range of products including vinyl upholstery, shower curtains, plastic food  containers, raincoats, dryer sheets, lipstick, hairspray, nail polish, certain soaps and chemical air fresheners. They can be absorbed into a person's body, and exposure in- utero was linked in the study to lower IQs later in a child's life.

 Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City headed the study.

 Three hundred and twenty eight New York City low-income women and their children participated in the study. The researchers followed the expectant mothers to assess  the impact of exposure to four phthalates in the third trimester of pregnancy: DnBP and DiBP, as well as 2 other phthalates. The chemical amounts were measured in each woman's urine, and the children took IQ tests at age 7.

 After controlling for factors such as the mother's IQ, education level and family home environment, the researchers found the children of mothers with the highest concentrations of DnBP and DiBP in their systems had IQ levels of 6.6 and 7.6 points lower than children in the lowest exposure group.

 The two other phthalates did not appear to have an impact on the children's intellectual development.

 "Because phthalate exposures are ubiquitous and concentrations seen here within the range previously observed among general populations, results are of public health significance," the researchers write in their study.

 The authors point out that the mothers with a higher volume of chemicals in their system were still within the national average of a larger sample measured by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicates Americans are being exposed to too high a dose of these common chemicals.

 Six phthalates have been banned in children’s products since 2009, but health officials have yet take to take steps to alert pregnant women of the risk that comes with using certain products that contain phthalates. Moreover, companies are not required to label the use of phthalates in products.

 Because so many products contain phthalates, it’s almost impossible to eliminate the chemicals entirely from your system.

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies phthalates as endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with a person's hormone system. They have been associated with a number of physical developmental abnormalities such as cleft palate and skeletal malformations.

 Other studies have linked increased fetal deaths and preterm births in animals to phthalate exposure. They’ve also associated the chemicals to health problems in teens such as insulin resistance.

 The researchers recommend pregnant women take a number of measures to at least minimize risks. They suggest avoiding products with recyclable plastic that's labeled with the numbers 3, 6 or 7.

 The Environmental Working Group also recommends against using cleaning and cosmetic products that include "fragrance" on the list of ingredients, since that indicates the product may contain some hidden phthalates. Many companies are now labeling which of their products are “phthalate free.”

 The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

 Source: Jessica Firger, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/prenatal-exposure-to-common-chemicals-linked-to-lower-iq-in-children/

 http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/phthalates_factsheet.html

Your Child

Kids Allowed to Sip Alcohol Get Mixed Message

1:30

Letting your little one have an occasional sip of alcohol may be sending him or her the wrong message suggests a new report. 

According to the study, children that are allowed to sporadically sip alcohol as youngsters are more likely to start drinking by the time they are in high school.

Researchers followed 561 middle school students in Rhode Island for about three years. At the start of sixth grade (about age 11), nearly 30 percent of the students said they'd had at least one sip of alcohol.

The alcohol was provided in most cases by parents and given at parties or special occasions.

By ninth grade, 26 percent of those who'd had sips of alcohol at a younger age said they'd had at least one full alcoholic drink, compared with less than 6 percent of those who didn't get sips of alcohol when younger.

The researchers also found that 9 percent of the sippers had gotten drunk or engaged in binge drinking by ninth grade, compared with just under 2 percent of the non-sippers.

The study’s lead researcher Kristina Jackson, of Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, in Providence, Rhode Island, said the findings don’t prove that sips of alcohol at a young age absolutely leads to teen drinking.

"We're not trying to say whether it's 'OK' or 'not OK' for parents to allow this," Jackson said in a journal news release.

She noted that some parents believe that introducing children to alcohol at home teaches them about responsible drinking and reduces the appeal of alcohol.

"Our study provides evidence to the contrary," Jackson said.

Giving sips of alcohol to young children may send them a "mixed message," she suggested.

"At that age, some kids may have difficulty understanding the difference between a sip of wine and having a full beer," Jackson said.

For the study, Jackson’s team tried to account for other factors that might contribute to underage drinking such as parent’s drinking habits and any family history of alcoholism as well as the kid’s tendency to be impulsive or a high-risk taker.

Jackson says that there was still a connection between the early sipping and drinking by high school age.

She also stressed that parents who have already given their child sips of wine or beer shouldn’t be alarmed, but should think about sending their child a clear message about alcohol use and abuse.

The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20150331/letting-kids-sip-alcohol-may-send-wrong-message

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-kids-alcohol-earlier.html

Your Child

Is Sleepwalking Inherited?

1:45

If you walk in your sleep, there’s a good chance that your child may do the same.

A recent Canadian study found that children of two sleepwalking parents have more than a 60 percent chance of developing the same condition.  For children of one sleepwalking parent, the odds were about 47 percent they too would be sleepwalkers.

"These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors," the Canadian study authors wrote. "Parents who have been sleepwalkers in the past, particularly in cases where both parents have been sleepwalkers, can expect their children to sleepwalk and thus should prepare adequately."

It’s not uncommon for children to walk in their sleep when they are young, but they typically stop by the time they reach adolescents.  It usually happens when someone is going from the deep stage of sleep to the lighter stage. The sleepwalker can't respond during the event and usually doesn't remember it. In some cases, he may talk and not make sense. Sleepwalking can also start later in life according to researchers.

Sleep terrors are another condition that typically affects only children. They can be very disturbing for a parent to witness. A child may scream out during sleep and is intensely fearful.

In the new study, Dr. Jacques Montplaisir, of Hospital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal, and colleagues examined connections between these conditions in parents and adults. They looked at almost 2,000 kids born in Quebec from 1997 to 1998.

The researchers found that 56 percent of the children (aged 1.5 to 13 years) had sleep terrors. Younger children were more likely to have sleep terrors, the study noted. Sleepwalking, meanwhile, affected 29 percent of kids aged 2.5 to 13 years. Sleepwalking was less common in the youngest kids, according to the study.

The odds of sleepwalking grew, depending on whether one or both parents were sleepwalkers. Only 23 percent of kids whose parents didn't sleepwalk developed the disorder.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is no specific treatment for sleepwalking.  Creating a safe sleep environment is critical to preventing injury during sleepwalking episodes. For example, if your child sleepwalks, don’t let him or her sleep in a bunk bed. Also, remove any sharp or breakable objects from the area near the bed, install gates on stairways, and lock the doors and windows in your home.

The study was published in the May edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Randy Dotinga, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20150504/sleepwalking-parents-likely-to-have-sleepwalking-kids

http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/abnormal-sleep-behaviors/sleepwalking

 

 

 

Your Child

Recess Is Important for Kids

1.45 to read

Add recess to reading, writing and arithmetic says a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.)  The pediatricians believe that recess can be as important to a child’s overall development as standard classes and should never be denied, especially as a punishment.

"We consider it essentially the child's personal time and don't feel it should be taken away for academic or punitive reasons," said Dr. Robert Murray, who co-authored the new policy statement for the AAP.

According to the authors, recess is a “crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.”

Other reasons given for the importance of recess are that it helps students develop better communication skills, counteracts the time sitting in classrooms, and may foster skills such as cooperation and sharing - all good things.

The authors noted that previous research has found that children are able to pay closer attention and perform tasks better after a recess break.  A year ago, 14 studies were reviewed and researchers found that kids who get more exercise do better in school. Recess and sports related activities offer children the opportunity to exercise and burn off excess energy.  They also get a chance to recharge their brains and bodies.

Other organizations have recommended that children need recess as well. The American Heart Association and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CPSC) both call for schools to offer recess to kids.  You might think that recess in schools is a given, but in a 2011 survey of 1,800 elementary schools, researchers discovered that a third of the schools did not offer recess to their third-graders.  However, most schools do offer recess of between 15 and 30 minutes once or twice a day.

Is there a particular time of day that helps kids most?  Before lunch seems to be the consensus from government agencies, CPSC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Previous studies have found that children waste less food and behave better for the rest of the day when their recess is before their scheduled lunch, the pediatricians' statement notes.

They also agree that PE should not be substituted for recess. "Those are completely different things and they offer completely different outcomes," said Murray. "(Physical education teachers are) trying to teach motor skills and the ability of those children to use those skills in a bunch of different scenarios. Recess is a child's free time."

Free time means no structured activities by adults such as games. "I think it becomes structured to the point where you lose some of those developmental and social emotion benefits of free play," said Murray.

"This is a very important and overlooked time of day for the child and we should not lose sight of the fact that it has very important benefits," he added.

I remember recess fondly.  A group of friends would gather and run from one end of the schoolyard to the other at full gallop. The first one back would win the honor of becoming the “lead horse.” Yes, in our recess fantasy we were a heard of horses – whinnying and throwing our heads around (showing off our glorious manes.)

It was fun and exhilarating as we trotted around strutting our stuff.

Recess isn’t only important because it breaks up the monotony of sitting, studying and listening, it can also spark the imagination!

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/pediatricians-kids-recess-during-school-0547374

Your Teen

Newer Cars Safer for Teen Drivers

2:00

One of the most exciting days in a teen’s life is when he or she gets their driver’s license. It’s also one of the scariest for parents. Parents know that it takes time and experience to become a competent driver. Teens often believe that because they can stop at stop signs, put on their seat belt, Parallel Park and stay in a well-defined lane, they are competent enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), list motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Seven teens –ages 16 to 19- die every day from motor vehicle injuries.  According to a new study, more teens could survive serious auto accidents if they are driving newer cars.

While older cars may be less expensive, newer models are more likely to come with better standard safety features. Larger and heavier cars may also offer more protection.

"We know that many parents cannot afford a new vehicle," said the study's lead author, Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Our message to parents is to get the most safety they can afford."

Researchers analyzed data from 2008 to 2012 from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which included information on 2,420 drivers ages 15 to 17 and 18,975 drivers ages 35 to 50.

The majority of teens that died (82%) were in cars that were at least 6 years old. A smaller, but significant proportion of teens (31%) were in cars 11 to 15 years old. For comparison, fatally injured teens were almost twice as likely as their middle-aged counterparts to be driving a car that was 11 to 15 years old.

Researchers say that they can’t prove that older cars driven by teens actually increase the risk of death if they are in a motor vehicle accident. However, there is good reason to think that teens would be safer in newer cars.

Older cars have older seatbelts that can wear and tear with age. Airbags were not required in cars till 1997 and 1998 for trucks. Today, they are standard equipment. The biggest safety upgrade though, has been the addition of electronic stability control.

Ultimately, McCartt said, though newer model cars tend to have more safety features, protecting your teens is not as straight forward as just steering clear of older vehicles. "We did find older vehicles that met our safety criteria," she said.

Still, it's a rare older vehicle that has electronic stability control — an important safety feature that helps drivers keep control in extreme maneuvers, McCartt said. "That's something that is standard on new cars since it was a requirement starting in 2012," she added.

Extreme maneuvers can quickly happen when something unexpected happens while driving. There are also plenty of distractions that can take your eyes off the road such as reading or replying to a text, eating or drinking while driving, cell phone calls, Changing CDs or radio stations, video watching, looking at or entering data for a GPS, talking to passengers. The list goes on. These distractions are certainly not limited to teens, but they have the least experience behind the wheel.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers that can be found at http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicles-for-teens.

They also have a list of recommendations to consider when purchasing a car for a teenager. They are:

•       Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.

•       Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no mini-cars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.

•       Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.

•       Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Most teens will eventually get their driver’s license – that’s a given.  If a teen is still a minor, it’s up to the parents or responsible guardians to help choose a car that will give them the best chance of survival if an accident should happen. That choice may include a newer model.

The study was published online in the journal, Injury Prevention.

Source: Linda Carroll, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/cheap-old-car-might-carry-deadly-cost-teens-study-n271321

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicles-for-teens

Your Baby

Should You Let Your Baby Cry Itself to Sleep?

1:30

As any parent of an infant will tell you- sleep is a precious thing. So, what’s the best way to get your baby to sleep through the night? There are many ways to help baby drop off to dreamland, but two of the most common had researchers wondering if there might be long-term harm resulting from these techniques.

Turns out, they was nothing to worry about.

The study tested two methods; graduated extinction and bedtime fading.

Graduated extinction is more commonly known as controlled-crying or letting baby cry his or herself to sleep while learning how to self-soothe without parental involvement

Bedtime fading is keeping baby awake longer to help them drop of more quickly.

Researchers discovered that both techniques work and neither had any long-term negative effects.

The graduated extinction approach also showed babies waking up fewer times during the night.

Parents worry about the controlled-crying method, in particular, according to study leader Michael Gradisar, a clinical psychologist at Flinders University, in Adelaide, Australia.

With that technique, parents resist the urge to immediately respond to their baby’s nighttime cries, so he or she can learn to self-soothe. Some parents worry that will damage their baby emotionally, and possibly cause "attachment" problems or other issues in the long run, Gradisar explained.

But, he said, his team found no evidence that was the case.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned parents of 43 babies to one of three groups: one that started practicing controlled crying; one that took up bedtime fading; and a third, "control" group that was just given information on healthy sleep.

The babies ranged in age from 6 months to 16 months. All had a "sleep problem," according to their parents.

Parents in the controlled-crying group were given a basic plan: When their baby woke up crying during the night, they had to wait a couple of minutes before responding. They could then go comfort, but not pick up, the baby.

Over time, parents gradually let their baby cry for longer periods before responding.

Bedtime fading is a "gentler" approach, according to Gradisar: The aim is to help babies fall asleep more quickly by putting them down later.

Parents in that study group were told to delay their baby's bedtime for a few nights -- to 7:15 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., for instance. If the baby was still having trouble falling asleep, bedtime could be pushed back another 15 minutes.

After three months, the researchers found, babies in both sleep-training groups were falling asleep faster when their parents put them down -- between 10 and 13 minutes faster, on average. On the other hand, there was little change in the control group.

A year after the study's start, children in the three groups had similar rates of behavioral and emotional issues. They were also similar in their "attachment" to their parents -- which was gauged during standard tests at the research center.

Experts say that infants are usually able to sleep longer through the night, as they get a little older. By the age of 6 months, 80 percent of infants sleep all night. By 9 months, about 90 percent do.

If your baby doesn’t seem to be able to sleep through the night by those ages, contact your pediatrician to see if your little one may have a problem that needs checking out.

Story source: Amy Norton, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20160524/what-really-works-to-help-baby-sleep

 

Your Baby

Can More Fruit Consumed During Pregnancy Raise Baby’s IQ?

1:30

The USDA recommends that women consume 2 cups of fruit daily. This can include fruits that are fresh, canned, dried or frozen, as well as 100-percent fruit juice.

Fruit not only contains important vitamins, minerals and fiber but may also provide benefits for the children of moms-to-be who consume more fruit during pregnancy.

According to a new study from Alberta, Canada, the children of mothers that consumed higher levels of fruit during pregnancy, had better cognitive development by the time they were one-year-old.

Researchers said the effects of eating more fruit on test scores were significant.

"It's quite a substantial difference," Dr. Piush Mandhane, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta, said in a press release.  "We know that the longer a child is in the womb, the further they develop -- and having one more serving of fruit per day in a mother's diet provides her baby with the same benefit as being born a whole week later."

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 688 one-year-old children collected as part of the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study, and considered the amount of fruit their mothers consumed during pregnancy, gestational age at birth, parental lifestyle factors, including income and education, and cognitive tests given to the children.

Two-thirds of the population falls between 85 and 115 on the traditional IQ scale, with the average at about 100. The researchers found if pregnant mothers ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice per day, their children scored six or seven points higher on IQ tests at one year old. There was no improvement in learning when only the babies were fed fruit.

The researchers noted that future studies will explore longer-term benefits of increased fruit consumption during pregnancy beyond one year of life, as well as whether higher intake of fruit affects development of other parts of the brain.

"We found that one of the biggest predictors of cognitive development was how much fruit moms consumed during pregnancy. The more fruit moms had, the higher their child's cognitive development," Mandhane said.

Experts recommend that pregnant women eat a variety of foods throughout the day to make sure they and their baby get the nutrients they need. A balanced diet contains fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein and dairy. Doctors often prescribe prenatal vitamins just in case a mom-to-be isn’t able to get all the nutrients she needs by diet alone.

While fruit is important to one’s overall diet, pregnant women should consult with their OB/GYN about their intake if they are diabetic or susceptible to gestational diabetes.

The study was published in the online edition of EBioMedicine,

Story source: Stephen Feller, http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2016/05/26/Eating-fruit-while-pregnant-helps-babys-cognitive-development-study-says/3311464273928/?spt=sec&or=hn

Your Child

Study: Exercise, Once Again, Improves Kid’s Learning Skills

2:00

While the debate on whether to bring back recess to school curriculums continues across the U.S., a small study from the Netherlands once again shows that adding exercise to a child’s school day can improve their learning skills.

Researchers worked with 500 children in second and third grade, giving half of them traditional lessons while the rest received instruction supplemented with physical activity designed to reinforce math and language lessons.

The approach was a creative and unique way to helping children better comprehend math and spelling.  Instead of taking a recess break – exercise was actually incorporated into the lesson.

After two years, children who got the physically active lessons had significantly higher scores in math and spelling than their peers who didn't exercise during class.

"Previous research showed effects of recess and physical activity breaks," said lead study author Marijke Mullender-Wijnsma, of the University of Gronigen in The Netherlands.

"However, we think that the integration of physical activity into academic lessons will result in bigger effects on academic achievement," Mullender-Wijnsma added in an email to Reuters Heath.

Mullender-Wijnsma and colleagues developed a curriculum that matched typical lessons in academic subject matter but added physical activity as part of instruction. They tested it in 12 elementary schools.

Here’s how it worked.

Lessons involved constant practice and repetition reinforced by body movements. For example, children jumped in place eight times to solve the multiplication problem 2 x 4.

Children in the exercise group received 22 weeks of instruction three times a week during two school years. These lessons were up to 30 minutes long, and evenly split between math and spelling instruction.

During the first year of the study, there wasn’t a great deal of difference found between the students receiving exercise during the class and those that didn’t, when speed was the focus in the math tests.

However, after two years, children who received exercise-based instruction had significantly higher scores on the math speed exams than students who didn't. The difference over two years equated to more than four months of additional learning for the students who had physically active lessons.

When the focus was on lesson comprehension, students receiving exercise outperformed students who did not receive the exercise instruction in both the first and second year. Again, the progress amounted to about four more months of learning.

For spelling, there wasn't a significant difference between the student groups after one year. But by the end of the second year they did have significantly better test scores, once again, adding an additional four more months of learning.

For reading, there wasn’t much difference between the two groups. It's possible that physical activities may be more beneficial to learning that involves repetition, memorization and practice of lessons from previous classes, the researchers conclude.

Researchers did point out that there were limitations that could have impacted the results of the study during the first year. The exercise group received specially trained teachers and individual schools administered the tests.

The research team did not examine why exercise might have helped students do better during tests.

 Sara Benjamin Neelon, of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues write in an accompanying editorial that it’s not clear whether these types of classes would work in countries where the population is larger, more diverse and students come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

"However, the take-home message for parents and teachers is that physically active lessons may be a novel way to increase physical activity and improve academic performance – at the same time," Benjamin Neelon said by email.

More and more studies show that exercise appears to help the brain function better in children and adults. Whether all U.S. school administrations will see adding recess or exercise back into school curriculums is anybody’s guess, but according to science – it sure couldn’t hurt and might even help students develop stronger learning skills.

The study was published in the online journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-fitness-learning-idUSKCN0VX26V

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