“To summarize, the literature [heretofore] provides inconclusive evidence on the positive longitudinal relationship between physical activity and academic performance. However, there is a strong general belief that this relationship is present, and research in this area is ongoing.”
Exercise and Academic Performance
Keeping kids active at school is a superb way to increase learning, focus, and even test results. As many of you reading this have likely experienced, if your mind is feeling cluttered or you’re having a mid-afternoon slump, a brisk walk or a quick workout can give you a renewed sense of clarity and focus. This is certainly true for kids too.
In 2010, ABC News reported on a special program being implemented at Naperville Central High School, where students could take part in a dynamic gym class at the beginning of the day, and had access to exercise bikes and balls throughout the day in their classrooms. The results were astounding. Those who participated nearly doubled their reading scores, and math scores increased twentyfold!
Research has shown that after 30 minutes on the treadmill, students solve problems up to 10 percent more effectively.
Although it’s becoming more widely known that physical activity has a direct result on brain function, many schools in the US are removing rather than improving their phys ed programs… This means it’s up to you to encourage your child to stay active after school and on weekends in order to reap the wonderful brain-boosting benefits that exercise has to offer.
How Exercise Boosts Brain Function
Exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. Animal tests have also illustrated that during exercise, their nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and has a direct benefit on brain functions, including learning. Further, exercise provides protective effects to your brain through:
- The production of nerve-protecting compounds
- Greater blood flow to your brain
- Improved development and survival of neurons
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases
A 2010 study on primates published in Neuroscience also revealed that regular exercise not only improved blood flow to the brain, but also helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys; a benefit the researchers believe would hold true for people as well.