4 Things you Didn’t Know about Exercise and Learning
4 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Exercise and Learning!
It started with the physical education teachers screaming from the rooftops, but no one listened. The “Specials” classes and even recess were being cut to make room for more instructional time that would ideally raise test scores. Soon parents, students and teachers began noticing the continued decline in academic achievement, test scores and a rise in behavior issues. This is something our physical education teachers knew would happen! Today, there are new studies that support what our phys ed teachers have been trying to tell us, exercise stimulates the brain and improves learning. Once again, the education world is seeing a shift in teaching strategies. Here are five things that we are just now discovering about how exercise and learning go together like peas and carrots!
#4: More than half of our youth do not meet the minimum requirements of daily exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends at least one hour of moderate aerobic exercise every day. In addition, children (ages 10-17) should have an hour of high-intensity aerobic exercise and strength training. Most schools don’t have a physical education class for every student, and certainly not every day! Do your students meet the requirements by the CDC? Does your school even know what they are? Most likely not. PE, like other “specials” have been hit hard by the renewed push to increase test scores as students find most of their day spent in the classroom, with little time left in the schedule for the gymnasium or playground. Perhaps if administrators and board members were aware of the scientific benefits of exercise, the times would be switched!
#3: Recess increases cognitive development.
In a study called, The Role of Recess in Children’s Cognitive Performance and School Adjustment, showed that developed social and emotional behaviors have a direct influence on cognition. In other words, students that easily make friends, take on leadership roles, play creatively, include others, solve peer arguments, show empathy, control their anger and demonstrate other areas of social and emotional growth also have strong cognitive performance results. They score higher on standardized tests than students who are not socially and emotionally balanced. More importantly, it’s easier for these students to learn! Isn’t that the goal? What can we do to get our children to learn, retain and apply new information? According to the latest in brain research, the answer is exercise and movement.
#2: Our brains were designed for movement.
According to John Medina, a molecular biologist and research consultant, humans were not designed to sit at a desk all day. In fact, he states, “If you were to design an almost perfect anti-learning environment, it would look… like a classroom!”
He reminds us that our ancestors were in constant motion. They would walk an average of 12 miles a day in search of food and shelter (Medina, 2014). Those who didn’t walk or at least keep up were likely the next meal for one of the many predatory animals with whom we shared the land. The connection between the mind and the body is stronger than we ever believed it to be in the past.
Ask yourself: Why do we have a brain?
If you answered: To think, Dr. Daniel Wolpert, a Neuroscientist, would disagree. He claims we have only one reason for the brain: “To produce adaptable and complex movements.” As evidence, he cites living things such as trees and plants. They have a life cycle, but they don’t move and therefore don’t need a brain. The brain is designed to be stimulated through exercise. In fact, advances in technology have made hunting food (grocery shopping), dancing for rain (watching the news) and making clothes (online shopping) too easy! As a nation, we’ve become inactive and our brains have not evolved to keep up with this sedentary lifestyle.
#1: Beyond improved cognition, exercise is vital to social and behavioral growth.
According to John Ratey, more than just academic performance is enhanced when physical movement is added to a daily regimen. Take a look at this list of benefits that exercise provides and see if any might apply to the students in your class!
- Reduced test anxiety
- Decreased symptoms of depression after 3 days of exercise
- Improved adaptation to challenges in a changing environment
- Decreased toxic effects of high levels of stress
- Reduced neuronal death caused by chronic stress
Balanced Mood and Behavior
- Improved attention, motivation, self-esteem, cooperation
- Ameliorated learned helplessness
- Improved resilience and self-confidence
- Increased ability to withstand stress and frustration
- Fewer behavior problems
- Increased coping skills when presented with a new situation
- Increased self-discipline and self-esteem
- Reduction or elimination of the need for ADHD medications and antidepressants
- Regulated mood through the natural balance of neurotransmitters
- Regulated sleep patterns for increased alertness during school hours
- Intrinsic sense of reward, motivation, and satisfaction
- Impulse control
- Joyful attitude
- Increased state of happiness and life satisfaction
Improved Social Skills and Behavior
- Lower levels of drug use in teens
- Better family relationships
- Noticeable improvement in key personal, social, cooperative, and communication skills
- Improved attention, impulsivity, motivation, self-esteem, and cooperation
Classroom Teachers- Start Implementing Movement in your Classes Today!
The evidence is clear, plus kids love to move around in class…if you aren’t already, implement movement and exercise in your classes. Need some ideas? Our course, Move to Learn is an excellent resource for justifying and implementing movement in education. Plus, you can earn 18 hours of professional development!
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, June 4). How Much Physical Activity should Children Get? Retrieved March 31, 2017, from CDC CEnters for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm
Medina, J. (2014). Brain Rules. Pear Press; 2 Upd Exp edition.
Pellegrini, A. D., & Bohn, C. M. (2005, January/ February). The Role of Recess in Children’s Cognitive Performance and School Admustment. Research News and Comment, 34(1), 13-18. Retrieved March 30, 2017
Ratey, J. J. (2013). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Little Brown and Company.
Wolpert, D. (2011, November). TedTalks. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from The Real Reason for Brains: https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_wolpert_the_real_reason_for_brains