Tips for Parents

What Is the Connection between Exercise and Learning?

By Susan Magsamen, SVP Early Learning

Who says that brains and brawn are mutually exclusive? More and more studies are showing that improving your physical fitness can also bolster your mental strength. While many news reports have focused on the benefits of exercise for physical health, let's take a closer look at claims showing that working out can tone up your mental muscles as well.

According to researchers at the University of Illinois, a 30-minute session on the treadmill can help students improve their problem solving skills by up to 10 percent! It seems that physical exercise can get our brains ready to learn by focusing attention and preparing it to process information. In a high school just outside Chicago, students who were struggling in math and reading were given a change in class schedule – physical education took place first thing in the morning. After this schedule change, improvements in math and reading scores were impressive – reading scores showed twice as much growth as before, and math scores rose by a factor of 20!

Other studies have found that physically fit children do better on cognitive tasks including spatial and memory puzzles compared to their less active peers. Anatomical differences have also been found in the brains of active children – the hippocampus and basal ganglia, structures that have been shown to relate to memory, emotion regulation, and attention, tend to be larger in kids who get regular exercise than those less fit. Who knew that breaking a sweat could aid brain development?

All in all, it seems that learning is not just about reading and math. Your brain gets some of the exercise it needs by getting up and moving. Encourage your child through dancing, running, and moving together to keep fit and smart!

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