Omatas Talent Show June 2015

Creating enquiring minds,

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Help, our kids have moved inside! And they’re on the couch again! Perhaps our future does lie in a cognitive realm of body-less brains, but not in my lifetime, nor, I suspect, in my children’s either. So indoors is out and outdoors must come back in. But why?

According to Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, “Cognition is embodied. You think with your body, not only with your mind.” So how our bodies function must affect our minds and how we think. It is not a big leap to understand this especially when you consider how your mouth waters at the thought of biting into a fresh, yellow, sour lemon.

According to Vanessa Richardson in A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind, “For starters, aerobic exercise pumps more blood throughout the body, including to the brain. More blood means more oxygen and, therefore, better-nourished brain tissue.” Exercise for children doesn’t have to be structured, they get more of a workout playing catchers with their friends than running on a treadmill. Children need fun ways to develop balance, laterality, flexibility, motor skills, body concepts, relaxation and self-control.

When children are physically fit:

"Exercise in many ways optimizes your brain to learn," says Dr. John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, "Memory retention and learning functions are all about brain cells actually changing, growing, and working better together." Exercise encourages brain cells to grow, interconnect, and communicate in new ways. These new neurons and neural connections improve learning and memory skills as well as cognitive control and concentration. Many studies are showing that just 20 minutes of exercise increases cognitive ability in children by between 5% and 10% immediately after exercising.

But exercise should have a longer lasting effect otherwise why are we all doing it? In an amazing study by Pascual-Leone, a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, the lasting effects of exercise were evident when they are amassed over a period of months. The long term effects of daily, focused activities (i.e. over 6 months or more) creates new neural pathways. The short term effects were actually the strengthening of existing pathways. This makes sense of the immediate changes in cognition.

So, through physical movement and exercise we are able to literally change the brain’s structures. Now these are good reasons to build movement into every day and every classroom.

Why all the fuss about exercise ?