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Video: Fit Hearts Have Street Smarts

Credit: Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

VANCOUVER, CANADA—For pedestrians, darting past whizzing cars at busy intersections can feel like a game of Frogger—especially when they're talking on a cell phone. But multitasking may be even trickier for kids who are out of shape, scientists reported here yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). Researchers strapped virtual-reality goggles on 26 children between 8 and 10 years old and videotaped them crossing an imaginary street while simulated cars zoomed by. The kids also tried to avoid collisions while listening to music or talking on cell phones. Then, the team counted up the number of crashes and compared street-crossing success between volunteers who were aerobically fit (as defined by their oxygen use during exercise) and those who were not. Both groups were more likely to make it to the other side when not distracted by phone conversations. But kids who were in shape were better at crossing safely than their less-fit peers, despite the fact that they didn’t move any faster. Scientists have linked aerobic fitness in kids to bigger brains, specifically, the part involved in paying attention. Being in shape may help children juggle multiple tasks such as walking while talking—even if they're doing it in a video game.

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