Short bursts of intensive exercise can boosts kids' brainpower - and has benefits for those with learning difficulties or conditions such as autism, a New Zealand study suggests.

Although previous research had shown workouts lasting about 30-40 minutes improved memory and learning in adults and children, a new study from the University of Auckland found potential benefits of shorter sessions.

The study, published in open-access, peer-review journal eLife, investigated the effect of short bursts of high-intensity training (HIT) for 10 minutes each day on children aged 7-13.

A team led by Dr David Moreau, of the university's School of Psychology, established baseline data by testing the 305 participants on six tasks involving memory, information processing and behaviour before commencing the study. They then randomly assigned participants to either a placebo group involving activities such as games and quizzes, or to an HIT group that involved an intense 10-minute workout every weekday over six weeks.

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Participants in the HIT group showed larger improvements in tasks involving memory and information processing and behaviour, including the ability to focus on a task to completion without getting distracted. The latter has been shown to be a key indicator of professional and academic success in adults.