Exercise may grow a better brain! There are strong connections between physical education, movement, energizing activities, and improved cognition. Studies have demonstrated that movement can be an effective cognitive strategy to (1) strengthen learning, (2) improve memory and retrieval, and (3) enhance learner motivation and morale. Most neuroscientists agree that movement and cognition are powerfully connected.
A recent study, cited below, indicates that even a single exercise session can benefit your brain, improving executive function, enhancing mood and decreasing stress levels. Researchers also found that exercise activates widespread areas and systems of the brain:
IOS Press. “Can a single exercise session benefit your brain? Even a single bout of physical activity can have significant positive effects on people’s mood and cognitive functions, according to a new study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170612115320.htm>.
Other studies have shown that people who exercise have far more cortical mass than those who don’t (Anderson, Eckburg, & Relucio, 2002).
Simple biology supports an obvious link between movement and learning. Oxygen is essential for brain function, and enhanced blood flow increases the amount of oxygen transported to the brain. Physical activity is a reliable way to increase blood flow, and hence oxygen, to the brain.
In the same way that exercise shapes up the muscles, heart, lungs, and bones, it also strengthens the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and corpus callosum—all key areas of the brain. We know exercise fuels the brain with oxygen, but it also helps to increase the number of connections between neurons. Most astonishingly, exercise is known to increase the baseline of new neuron growth.
Movement also stimulates the vestibular system and thus improves balance and physical co-ordination.
For children who have developmental delay or are struggling with academic skills movement is even more important as it gives their brains and bodies a second chance to make more effective neural connections. Any movement is good, but there are structured programmes designed to support learning such as: Brain Gym, Rhythmic Movement Training and the Exercise and Sound in Education Programme (EASIE). Get in touch if you would like more information about any of these.