Exercise: Food For the Brain!

Note:  This information is taken from an article written by W. Douglas Tynan, director of Integrated Health for the American Psychological Association.  It is paraphrased from the Sunday October 26,2014 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. You can find more on this topic and other health topics on his website about healthy kids at: http://www.Philly.com

We all know that exercise is good for the heart and body.  Staying fit with regular exercise helps children grow stronger and ward off obesity.  But there are several studies that have found exercise to be EXTREMELY BENEFICIAL to children’s developing brains.

Charles Hillman from the University of Illinois found that kids who participated in regular physical activity – 60 minutes per day – enhanced cognitive performance and brain function. The study measured  one hour of vigorous exercise followed by 45 minutes of a less vigorous skills game for a total of two hours every day after school for 150 days of the school year.  On measures of concentration, attention, impulse control, flexible thinking and brain activity (measured by scalp electrodes), the 8-9 year old studied, did much better overall than their sedentary peers.

A second study by Catherine Davis at the University of Georgia, with older children who were overweight and did low level (20 minutes per day) and high level (40 minutes per day), for only 15 weeks had the same results, along with better scores in concentration, math and impulse control.  If a prescription medication showed the same results, people would be lining up to buy it.  If there was a curriculum that showed this benefit, school districts would be signing up in droves. 

But, it is NOT a product, but rather a lifestyle to be taught at home and in school. The best way to get children to do their best in school is to GET THEM TO MOVE! Instead of eliminating physical education programs, we should be expanding them.  The most intriguing part of these studies was the gain in impulse control.  Is it my imagination, or were there fewer children with ADHD 50 years ago when recess and backyard play were popular staples of every neighborhood? I’d love to hear your views on this interesting topic.

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