TROY – Physical activity improves a child's academic performance and provides a possible new treatment option for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a Chinese professor and researcher participating in Troy University's Second Annual Alabama-China Symposium on Education and Culture.
Dr. Jinxia Dong, a professor of physical education at Peking University, one of China's leading universities, represented one of eight Chinese universities participating in the symposium. Dong, a former gymnast and past coach of Scotland's national women's gymnastics team, conducts research on exercise and cognitive abilities that are crucial to academic and life success.
“Sports are not just good for your body, they're good for your brain," she said. “Parents in China have very high expectations of their children. Young kids study very hard, and don't have time for physical things."
Dong's research links computer technology with conventional exercise to improve a child's cognitive abilities. As part of her research, she developed a three-game computer program with more than 200 competitive levels, along with a conventional exercise routine that includes activities requiring a high level of attention such as relay races or balancing a bean bag on the head. Her research concluded that the physical activities activated the same neurocognitive systems as the computer games.
In addition, children participating in clinical trials who had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) saw improved attention and memory as a result of the physical activity, leading to the theory that ADHD students could gain a greater foothold academically by engaging in exercise.
“The program was deemed a success when the trial group of students did better in reading and math exams than traditional students," she said, adding the trial group also scored higher in physical tests, showing greater flexibility than their counterparts.
Dong hopes to convince parents in China that education needs to incorporate technology and physical exercise.
“The research provides an opportunity for parents with ADHD children to potentially overcome that situation," said Dr. John Miller, Interim Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, and a leading researcher in the sport management field.
“From a health perspective, Dr. Dong's research is important because it gives us an option not thought of beforehand to address an illness like ADHD," said Dr. John Miller, interim dean of Troy University's College of Health and Human Services and a leading researcher in the sport management field. “This research provides an opportunity for parents with ADHD children to potentially overcome that situation."
For Miller, Troy University's Alabama-China Symposium on Education and Culture provides students and the state with significant research results and more.
“Students get an insight into unique and cutting-edge research, and it also gives them insight into different cultures," he said. “An activity such as this breaks down the barrier and shows our students that we can collaborate with people from a different country."
The symposium, conducted Tuesday through Thursday, was focused on educational and research collaboration between Troy University and Chinese universities and their faculty members.