A research project to test whether exercise makes the adolescent brain function better has won this year’s Albany campus School Science Symposium.

The test also backs the adage that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

Janelle Beauchamp, a year 13 pupil at Kingsway School, Orewa, won a $3000 bursary for her investigation into whether mild aerobic exercise promotes mental function in adolescents.

Miss Beauchamp tested eight pupils on memory and problem-solving tasks before and after exercising. Over two days the eight – a boy and a girl from each of years 10-13 at her school – were presented with 30 different objects for 15 seconds and asked them to remember as many as possible. Another test involved solving a puzzle while being timed. The physical exercise involved running 600m. On the second day the subjects completed similar tests with the exercise and non-exercise group reversed.

Her results showed the memory result improved after exercise for four students, stayed the same for two and decreased for two. In the puzzle test, six subjects completed the puzzle in a faster time after exercise, while two did it in a slower time.

Miss Beauchamp says that although the results “lack significance due to the small sample size”, they are consistent with research that identifies that exercise does have a positive effect on the body as it increases blood and oxygen flow and in turn helps brain function.

Angus Reid, a year 13 pupil from Rosmini College, North Shore, won a $2000 bursary as second prize for his investigation into how a cricket batsman’s front foot shot differs from that of a back foot shot.

Chris Thomas, also from Rosmini, won a $1000 bursary for third place for his study on the best position on the starting block for a sprinter.

They were among 65 pupils from five schools in the Auckland region who took part in the event aimed at encouraging year 10-13 pupils to explore and research current science and health-related topics. In the weeks leading up to the event, pupils researched their chosen topic, carried out literature reviews and designed their own experiments before presenting results at the symposium at the University for assessment by academic staff.

Organiser and judge Dr Ajmol Ali, a senior lecturer in exercise and sport science, says the symposium offered young scientists the opportunity to show off their academic prowess, under extremely challenging circumstances. “They also get to interact with like-minded peers from other schools.”

Year 12 winners were: Daniel Fawcett (Albany Senior High School) for investigating the impact of footwear on the performance of a round-off back-handspring back tuck in cheerleading routines, Hannah Downing (Albany Senior High School) for her study on how to prevent the most common injuries (knee, wrist and shoulder) in judo, and George Muir (Rosmini College) for his research on the impact of the 2010 Football World Cup on unemployment in South Africa.

Year 11 pupils Halamehi Akauola and Sarah Ofanoa (Onehunga High School) won the combined year 10 and 11 section for their study to measure the effects of a 30-minute exercise routine on the health and wellbeing of fellow students. Ben Curran (Rosmini College), came second and Elliot Crene (Rosmini College), third.

Diverse topics across all years included the impact of specific foods and drinks on sports performance; comparing speed, agility and fitness of different types of athlete; investigations of sporting equipment; causes of sports injury; and social/psychological issues such as advertising and diet, and exercise and depression.