Missing the school bus might be good for teenagers’ grades. A 2013 study from Spain’s University of Granada shows that girls who walk to school perform better on tests than those who commute by bus or car. And if the walk is 15 minutes or more, they’ll see an even bigger cognitive boost.
The magic behind a morning walk? It starts the day with a jolt of exercise, sorely needed by 13- to 18-year-olds. During adolescence, physical-activity levels drop as teenagers exchange kickball and tag for smartphones and texting. This robs teenage brains of exercise’s benefits — including improved neuron production, cerebral blood flow, concentration, and memory — at a time when the brain’s plasticity and ability to learn are at their peak.
Although the study, published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, saw girls’ test scores improve after walking to school, boys didn’t enjoy the same results. Adolescent boys may be more physically active than girls, says researcher Palma Chillón, and a short walk “represents a small amount of their daily physical activity.”
Walking to work could provide adults with cognitive benefits, too — especially if the office is more than 15 minutes away. “Whenever you have the opportunity, you should walk instead of using passive transportation,” Chillón advises. Not only could you see better brain function and productivity, you’ll burn calories and avoid the stress of that morning commute.