Exercise and Learning: How Fitness Improves Brain Function
The concept that exercise enhances brain function is not new to the medical community; however, it’s not a widely embraced practice for the classroom. With teachers struggling to prepare students to meet curriculum milestones, fitness is a matter most classroom instructors leave to the physical education department. However, there are some real mental health benefits that teachers may not want to overlook when it comes to exercise and physical activity for students of all ages.
Exercise and Cognitive Function
Research from around the world shows a definitive improvement in cognitive function among physically active people. While many of these studies have been conducted on older adults, research does suggest that even children enjoy cognitive benefits when they engage in routine fitness activities. Current research suggests that physically active students may not only get a boost in memory function but also in their ability to focus.
Exercise and Mood
Exercise has long been known to enhance mood and reduce the symptoms of mood disturbances such as mild depression and anxiety. When a person exercises, the body releases feel-good endorphins that not only target sore muscles but also flood the brain. The result is that people feel better after exercising even if they may feel fatigued or worn out. In this way, exercise may be able to ‘perk up’ brains that are bored or unenthused about life behind a desk.
Prioritizing Physical Activity Among Students
While teachers may find it challenging to make time for exercise-enhancing “brain breaks” or mood boosters, incorporating as few ten-minute sessions periodically throughout the day can positively impact students’ cognitive function and mood. Exercise breaks not only help students who are coping with conditions like ADHD or ADD, but also students who may be feeling down, nervous, or simply uninspired. A fitness break, even a mini-break, has a rejuvenating effect on students’ minds that directly impact their ability to learn.
4 Exercise Activities for the Classroom
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