Scientists in American have discovered that the brains of children who are fit and active grow larger than their couch potato counterparts.
Researchers at the University of Illinois found that one of the most important parts of their brain was some 12 per cent larger in fit children than in those of unfit youngsters.
The research was carried out on 49 children aged between nine and ten using brain scans and magnetic resonance imaging, a procedure which displays detailed pictures of organs and tissues in the body.
The team also tested children's endurance by making them run on a treadmill. The fitter children were found to have larger hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and recall) than those who were unfit. The fitter children also excelled in memory tests.
The study, published in Brain Research, concluded that the findings should encourage children to take up sport from a young age. Professor Art Kramer who led the research said: 'We knew that experience and environmental factors and socio-economic status all impact brain development. If you get some lousy genes from your parents, you can't really fix that, and it's not easy to do something about your economic status.
'But here's something that we can do something about. This is the first study I know of that has used MRI measures to look at differences in brain between kids who are fit and kids who aren't.'