Does Exercise Improve Learning in Children?
Obesity has been on the rise in both children and adults in America, making learning the impacts of being physically fit a necessity. Sitting in the classroom helps increase learning in one way, but being physically fit has also been found to not just work out the body, but also the mind.
Increased Blood Flow
When children increase blood flow that means there is a better flow of blood throughout the entire body. Though better blood flow is achieved with a healthy diet -- full of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables -- exercise helps the body maintain that flow. Dr. Majid Fotuhi, the Chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, states that exercise that exercise in children not only increases blood flow but promotes neurogenesis, a process that generates neurons in the brain. Essentially, exercise is great for a child's developing brain. (Ref 1)
Impact on Memory
Along with better blood flow through the body and brain, exercise can also aid the memory process. Exercise like walking or cycling have been found to have major effects on the performance of children in school. Art Kramer of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois says that fit children are better at multitasking and think more efficiently, functions directly related to memory, than those children who don't exercise . (Ref 2)
Cognitive control -- the ability to pay attention -- is a correlated with exercise too. Charles Hillman, the director of the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory at Illinois, has completed research that indicates children who engage in physical activity may increase their ability to improve their cognitive control. (Ref 3) For children who have trouble paying attention -- or have disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder -- exercise may be a viable solution. A study performed by a Michigan State University researcher, showed that children who have ADHD can better drone out distractions and focus on a task after a brief exercise session. (Ref 4)
Sports and Education
Though academic achievement and concentration go hand-in-hand, sports have been found to help learning functions. Participation in sports and other forms of physical activities enhance areas like information processing, behavior, and memory. Research on the correlation between physical activity and enhanced learning and better grades is on the rise. It may be that even more vigorous physical activity may further enhance learning in children. (Ref 5)
- 90.9wbur Boston's NPR News Station: Only A Game: Does Exercise Help Kids Learn?
- The Telegraph: Regular Exercise Can Improve Memory And Learning
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Physical Activity May Strengthen Children's Ability To Pay Attention
- Michigan State University: Exercise May Lead To Better School Performance For Kids With ADHD
- Dr Karen Martin, School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia May 2010: Sport And Physical Activity Enhance Children’s Learning
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?
- Ned White/iStock/Getty Images