How Sports Can Improve Cognitive Development Among Children

kids doing karate
  • Physical activity positively impacts cognitive development, such as improved memory, focus, problem-solving, creativity, and executive functioning.
  • Sports participation can help release BDNF, boosting brain cell growth and memory retention.
  • Exercise also stimulates hormone production, improving attention span, focus, and concentration.
  • Certain sports are better for cognitive development, such as jiu-jitsu for reflexes and problem-solving, tennis for hand-eye coordination, and more.
  • Regular physical activity must be done safely with proper supervision to ensure optimal cognitive development benefits are gained.

Sports and physical activity have long been a part of human life. Across cultures and periods, people have played games, participated in sports, and engaged in physical exercise. While most people know that physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy body, did you know it can also profoundly impact cognitive development?

Physical Activity and Cognitive Development

Physical activity can positively affect cognitive development in children and adolescents. Studies show that physical activity positively impacts academic performance, memory, reasoning, problem-solving skills, creativity, and even mood. Here’s a deeper look into how physical activity can affect the cognitive development of your children and the best sports that can help facilitate this growth.

Improved Memory

Participating in sports can improve memory significantly. Researchers have found that athletic activities such as running, soccer, and basketball can help increase memory retention by releasing a protein called BDNF in the brain. BDNF is an essential component in the growth and survival of brain cells, and it is linked to better memory function.

Enhanced Attention

Physical activity can also improve attention span, focus, and concentration. Exercise helps to stimulate the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine hormones, all of which can improve cognitive functioning. These hormones work to improve the capacity to pay attention and can help children with ADD or ADHD to focus better in school.

Calculations done by teenager

Better Problem-Solving Ability

Participation in sports also teaches valuable problem-solving skills. Athletes must often make quick, strategic decisions in a fast-paced and competitive environment. Individuals learn to identify potential obstacles when playing sports and plan their actions accordingly.

Increased Creativity

Physical activity also enhances creativity. A study revealed that creative thinking improved among participants who engaged in physical activity before or during the creative task. Aerobic exercise stimulates the release of BDNF, which encourages neurogenesis in the hippocampus and has been shown to stimulate increased creativity.

Improved Executive Function

Executive function is managing cognitive processes, including goal-setting, problem-solving, and focusing attention. A study found that young adults who participated in sports in high school demonstrated better executive functioning as adults. Another study demonstrated that older adults who participated in physical activity for six months demonstrated improved cognitive and executive functions.

Best Sports to Improve Cognitive Development

Certain sports are better at facilitating cognitive development than others. Here are some of those sports:

Jiu Jutsu

If you want to improve your children’s reflexes and problem-solving skills, jiu-jitsu is the way to go. This martial art requires participants to react rapidly to changing environmental conditions and use problem-solving techniques to defeat opponents. Consider enrolling them in a local jiu-jitsu class so they can take it every weekend. By doing so, they can learn valuable self-defense skills while improving their cognitive functioning.

Tennis racket and balls


This sport is great for developing hand-eye coordination and reaction time. It helps to improve focus, concentration, problem-solving skills, and creativity. Playing tennis also helps to improve decision-making abilities and strategic thinking.


Swimming can help improve the cardiovascular health of your children, in addition to improving their attention span and memory. Swimming can also be used for rehabilitation if your child has suffered an injury or physical disability.


Basketball is a great sport for helping your brain to grow. It helps you with hand-eye coordination and reaction time. It also helps improve focus, concentration, problem-solving skills, and creativity. Basketball teaches you how to make decisions quickly and think strategically. Additionally, it can teach you the value of teamwork.

Teamwork is crucial in this modern world, and involving children in physical activities can help them learn the importance of team spirit.


Lastly, soccer is a great sport for developing your child’s cognitive functions. Like basketball, it helps with hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and decision-making. Moreover, soccer involves a lot of running, which can help release hormones that can improve memory retention.

The benefits of physical activity are undeniable and a great way to improve overall health and wellness. Remembering that physical activity must be done safely and with proper supervision is essential. Talk with your children’s doctor about which exercises would be best for their age group and fitness level before encouraging them to participate in sporting activities. With the proper guidance, you can help ensure they gain all these positive benefits while having fun!

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