Posted on October 07, 2022
We know the physical benefits of exercise but do you know that it can help make us smarter too?
It's early morning on your drive to work, and you may see the familiar site of sleepy, disengaged and unmotivated children and teenagers plodding their way towards the school gates; you may even have them in the back of the car. This isn’t the best way to start the day and can be the same routine for us adults as we head off to work. One way we can counteract this is through exercise. We all know the physical benefits of exercise, but do you know what it does to the brain? I am currently rereading a book called ‘Spark – How exercise will improve the performance of your brain’. It is based on scientific research and case studies to show how exercise can help stimulate your brain. One case study from a high school in America set up an exercise class before school to see how physical activity affected academic performance.
The results were terrific. Not only were they ranked as one of the fittest in the nation, but they were also among some of the smartest. They didn't do too bad when they compared their results to other students from around the world. In the science section, they finished first ahead of Singapore! The maths section finished sixth behind Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Without going into too much about its science, the brain is like any other muscle; it grows with use and withers with inactivity. When we exercise, we release several chemicals and spark chain reactions in the brain to develop new cells. Exercise provides the brain with the right tools to learn with these reactions, and the stimulation from academic classes encourages those newly developing cells to plug into the complex network of the brain, which results in a better understanding of the subject and the ability to store information in the brain; you get smarter!
The PE teachers from the case study said, “In our department, we create the brain cells, and it’s up to the other teachers to fill them.” With all this information and much more at our disposal, the government and schools have decided to decrease the amount of physical education in favour of more study time. We are really trying to add more wood to the fire without lighting it first. Instead, we should add more PE classes and movement breaks to help stimulate the brain to learn. In one case study from the book, they took it a step further by scheduling the student’s most challenging subjects immediately after PE to capitalise on the beneficial effects of exercise.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
As a teacher or parents, we want to stimulate our children’s brains before they learn. Get them up early in the morning, go for a jog , or do a home-based workout. Maybe set them to do their homework after a training session or do your exercise beforehand. If you see the children in your class losing concentration, get them up and move! Tell the kids why you are doing this, and better still, do a role reversal. Get them to watch TV, play on the iPad or do nothing, and do their homework.
See if they feel and notice any difference in their standard of work. You may or may not see instant results, but stick with it for a few weeks and see if you notice a change in their academic grades, mood, physical appearance and fitness levels.
If it doesn’t work, what have you lost? A bit of time, maybe, but you may have gained so much more from instilling good habits and encouraging a love of physical activity for you
and your child. I’ll leave you with a quote from the Greek philosopher Plato; “For a man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.”
ARTICLE BY Gary WallaceGary Wallace, the founder of CORE Kids has been writing blogs for the past ten years, sharing his knowledge and wisdom on all things coaching, health, fitness and mindset. This is all part of his vision of inspiring millions of people to live happy, healthy, more fulling lives.