The Importance of Exercise on Brain Function

The importance of exercise can not be stressed enough. There is ample research that clearly shows exercise can make you smarter, happier, and less stressed. On the flip side, being inactive can lower your cognitive abilities, can lead to depression, and can increase feelings of stress and overwhelm.

Kids simply do not get enough physical activity now a days. Unfortunately there are some really terrific TV shows and video games that are quite addicting and have 24/7 access. Connecting the game to the internet now has allowed kids to "play" with their friends virtually instead of going out to play or ride bikes. To parents, after a busy day at work, quiet kids are a blessing. Gives time to prepare dinner, do chores, etc.,

.....but is this peace and quiet more important than the brain potential of your children?

Studies show repeatedly that exercise not only increases the oxygen, nutrients, and blood flow to the brain, it increases the number of neurons (neuroplasticity) in the hippocampus (responsible for memory) and in the prefrontal cortex (responsible for creativity, motivation, problem solving, advanced thinking, calm). The brain of a child (or adult) that exercises actually gets larger and gets more connections.  In addition, the brain to muscle connections (neuromuscular connections) work better to increase body control and physical ability and agility. 

Undeniably, exercise increases the chemicals in the brain that make you feel good and feel happy (endorphins), without popping a single pill. In fact, some studies show that exercise works better, or just as well, at fighting depression than antidepressants, and without the mile long list of side effects (including death, suicide, and self mutilation). 

So, what can we do to change our habits at home and at school? Get up. Get moving. Take a walk. Have the kids help with dinner prep standing up. Limit gaming and TV, and encourage games that are active without sitting. Go for a bike ride.

The most important time of the day to exercise is in the morning before eating. This has the largest benefit to building the brain. It doesn't have to be an hour long work out session. In fact, 7 minutes of high intensity interval training is all you need most mornings. The one I use with my children is Dr. Mercola's Scientific 7-Minute workout. You don't need any equipment, and even my youngest child (6 years old) can easily and enjoyably do all the exercises. The kids love it, and do not like any day that they have to miss it. It has become part of our daily routine. 

Organized sports? It is great to get moving and have sportsmanship, but it is not great to forgo nutrition and sleep. Also, any chance of head injury can cause a lifetime of lowered cognitive ability. Not worth it when our goal is to be our best. If you can maintain nutrition during these events, and there is no head injury risk, great. If not, I think other activities would be better. 

Another suggestion for easy yet very effective brain building is light slow weight training. By this I mean just having light kettle bells or hand weights and lifting by your side or in front ultra slowly (count of eight up, count of eight down) until exhaustion of the muscle. A good weight is when you can barely lift the weight 12 times in repetition. This ultra slow strength training has been shown to increase brain size and ability, and only takes a few minutes.  Even young kids can use a squash, apple, or a toy with a bit of weight to it. Well worth trying!

How about having the kids walk places instead of being driven everywhere. Walking has been shown to increase creativity by 60%. Write to the teachers and show them this post. If they were to encourage the kids to walk around the room every 25 minutes, or have them stand instead of sitting during some of the lessons, it would increase the brain activity and neuroplasticity of the kids. The teacher soon will have brighter, more creative, more focused, less depressed, calmer kids to teach, which will increase the enjoyment of teacher and kids alike. Win/win. 

This neuroplasticity workout works with adults too! Get up and moving with the kids! You will all feel better........ and will soon be




Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published