Tokyo: Horse-riding may help improve memory,learning and problem-solving in children, as the vibrations produced by the animals activate the kids’ nervous system, scientists have found.
Researchers examined the effects of horseback riding on the performance of children by having them complete simple tests directly before and after horse-riding, while measuring the children’s heart rate in response to movements created by the horses.
The behavioral reactions of the children were tested using a ‘Go/No-go’ test, which assesses cognitive response using fast computerized questions.
“We wanted to look into these effects because previous studies have demonstrated the benefits of horseback riding with respect to enhancing physical health and the mental effects, but few studies have addressed the effects of horseback riding on children and the mechanisms underlying how riding affects humans,” said Mitsuaki Ohta, professor of Tokyo University of Agriculture.
The test determined the children’s ability to respond in a situation, by either performing an action or demonstrating self-control.
The children were also asked to complete simple arithmetic problems to test their mental performance.
The results showed that riding on some horses greatly improved the ability of the children to perform the behavioral tasks, but less of an effect was seen on the children’s results when solving arithmetic problems.
Ohta believes this difference in results may be due to the simplicity of the mathematical test, as increases in heart rate were only associated with the behavioral test.
“The Go/No-go tasks might be harder than the arithmetic problems and thus cause a more extensive activation of the sympathetic nervous system, since increases in heart rate were associated with the improved performance of Go/No-go tasks, but not arithmetic problems,” he said.
These results mean that the act of horse-riding could improve cognitive abilities in children. These are brain-based skills of which an improvement can lead to enhanced learning, memory and problem-solving.
“One important characteristic of the horse steps is that they produce three-dimensional accelerations,” said Ohta.
“The movement of the horse’s pelvis may provide motor and sensory inputs to the human body and in this study, I believe some of the differences among the rider’s performances might be due to these accelerations,” he said.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. PTI
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