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What One Simple Thing Makes Kids Smarter?

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“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.

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Dr. Mercola

Dr. Mercola has been passionate about health and technology for most of his life. As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, he treated many thousands of patients for over 20 years. In the mid 90ís he integrated his passion for natural health with modern technology via the internet and developed a website, to spread the word about natural ways to achieve optimal health.


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10:41AM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

Thank you Dr. Mercola, for Sharing this!

4:15PM PDT on May 29, 2013

"Those who participated nearly doubled their reading scores, and math scores increased TWENTYFOLD!"
(caps are mine)

Didn't this strike anybody else as odd? Just how low WERE those math scores? In order to hit 100%, they'd only need to have had a previous mark of 5.

I believe the cover letter of the study says the math scores went up by a factor of twenty. Maybe he meant 20% and just worded it incorrectly. The staff seem too involved to have allowed scores to fall that low. A 20% increase in math is pretty significant.

Doubling reading scores? That's not hard to believe. Too many kids read way below their level of aptitude because they haven't been taught or challenged well enough. Just the fact that they're testing reading in HIGH SCHOOL is reason enough to suspect the curriculum for short changing these kids. By high school they should have learned enough that redeeming their reading skills should come fairly easy with the right kind of help and encouragement. But math relies too much on specific skills and aptitudes to be able to increase marks that significantly in a semester or two. Actually, I couldn't find anywhere that it noted the length of the experiment.

I did find it hilarious where it said that fidgeting and moving around helped kids concentrate. But those are the kids with ADHD! Some of us always got in trouble for fidgeting. At least I never fell out of my chair like my son did - several times. Twice I had to pick him up earl

9:53AM PDT on May 29, 2013


6:51AM PDT on May 29, 2013


7:12AM PDT on May 17, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

3:07AM PDT on May 16, 2013

Very true. Thanks for sharing.

11:41AM PDT on May 1, 2013

1 simple thing takes 5 pages to explain? Perhaps you could have done better if you followed you own advice. Personally I would just give them house / gardening work to do.

11:34AM PDT on May 1, 2013


11:26AM PDT on May 1, 2013

I was an excessively lazy child but always did well academically. Now, of course, my ways have caught up with me, and I really ought to be exercising. I'm not physically very vain, so I've been trying to motivate myself by reminding myself that exercise is supposed to be good for the brain...

8:53PM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Bring back recess and take away cellphone, computer games and other such BS.

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