We've all read the articles: exercise has positive effects on our mood. We get adrenaline and endorphin rushes, and it makes us happier -- it's why taking a walk can be such a big stress reliever.
But what if exercise and being physically fit could also alter your brain, increasing intelligence, focus, and memory?
The Effects of Exercise on Learning
A 2016 study gave a small group of children standardized testing to see their achievement in math and reading, followed by MRI testing to observe their brain. The MRI focused on the the frontal cortex -- the part of your brain responsible for things like working memory, attention, and planning.
Interestingly, the researchers observed that the children who had more endurance also had more brain maturation, and scored higher on their achievement test. This has led scientists to believe that the frontal cortex and the hippocampus become improved when children exercise.
Exercise Does Make a Difference
As a mom to a special needs child, I have seen huge improvements if I give my child frequent breaks to move and “get the wiggles” out, or allow him to move while learning. For example, my youngest son struggles with spelling, and gravitates to standing and bouncing slightly on my Bosu Ball instead of studying. After learning about this study, I tried an experiement of my own: I allowed him to study his spelling words while bouncing.
While there was not a huge change for me, I could tell he was definitely more focused, generaly happier, and willing to try harder. Over time, his spelling scores improved, too!
Recess is Essential
Additionally, I'm thankful that my children attend a school system that makes recess and physical education a priority.
As this article points out, scientists recommend that children should be given a combination of an hour of recess and physical education. Yet, many schools are choosing to reduce recess and P.E. classes. Currently, there are no federal regulations that require recess or PE.. on a daily basis.
But as parents, we have resources and the ability to squeeze in exercise for our kids outside of school. There are always options to join an afterschool sport or recreational center. And if your kids wouldn't be as responsive to organized community exercise, something as simple as playing at the park or in your backyard is helpful.
As long as some sort of exercise is integrated into your child’s routine, there studies are sure to improve!
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