Back to School: How to Make it a Great Year

Whether you are a student or the parent of a student, you likely have one thing on your mind as the new school year begins:  academic performance.  From kindergarteners to graduate level college students, concentration and learning are critical and directly related to how successful the year is and how bright the future looks career wise.

You may be wondering what academic performance has to do with a fitness blog.  

The answer?  Everything.  The research is conclusive:  physical exercise directly impacts how well a student does academically.  

Consistent, daily exercise results in significantly improved concentration, learning and test scores.

In his book, Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Harvard Psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey cites studies that document dramatic increases in the academic performance of students when they begin adding exercise to their daily schedule.

City Park Collegiate school in Saskatoon Saskatchewan is an inner city school in which many students have both behavioral and academic challenges.  But after bringing treadmills into the class room and letting the students use them, behavioral and academic problems improved.  

Students were able to sit still longer, concentrate better and scores began sky rocketing.  In just four months, the students in Allison Cameron’s class began improving academically.  Grade level increases were in the 27%-36% range, and math increases were similar.1  

And all it took was 20 minutes of exercise each morning.

What is it about exercise that causes such significant changes?  Scientists are still trying to understand it, but it appears as though exercise helps to lay down new pathways in the brain, which aids learning.  Neurogenesis also seems to be stimulated by exercise.  Neurogenesis is the process by which the brain grows new brain cells.  These new brain cells help build the new pathways along which learning can take place.2

City Park isn’t the only school that has seen improvements in student’s academic and behavioral performance. At Naperville Central High School west of Chicago, similar results are seen, with students dramatically improving in reading, math3 and science.

The take-away message?  If you are a student, a parent of a student or even a teacher, exercise should be a top priority.  To neglect it is to sabotage potential and open the door for behavioral problems.  

There are many ways to get a good workout in.

Resist the urge to neglect exercise in order to spend more time with the books.  Your study time will be much more productive if you feed your brain with exercise!

Sources:

1 http://impossible2possible.com/modules/baffin/AP%20Word%20Module%202%20-%20Exercising%20your%20Brain.f.pdf

2 Ibid.

3 http://abcnews.go.com/WN/exercise-school-leads-learning/story?id=10371315#.UD-6YKMq4uM

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