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Exercise, Brain Development, Behavior and Learning
What you need to know to help your child succeed!
Exercise creates the optimal environment for neural plasticity, the ability of the brain to physically change. Exercise puts the brain and body into balance naturally by regulating brain chemicals that control mood and responses to stress while developing neurological connections to increase academic success.
WHAT can exercise do for student learning?
- It increases the ability to focus, process, retain and recall information while increasing stamina.
- It facilitates neurological change that creates higher cognitive function. This results in an increase in academic success while decreasing behavioral distractions.
- It will enhance mood and build self-esteem allowing students to become more successful both academically and socially.
WHEN should I have my child utilize physical activity to increase academic success?
- Every morning should start with a body-brain workout video from our website or an equivalent workout. This will prepare the brain to focus and learn! The repetition of a daily workout will increase the strength of the neurological connections needed to learn efficiently.
- Before doing homework is an important time to participate in an aerobic activity! If that aerobic activity incorporates cross-lateral movement, moving balance and tracking with eyes across the midline, the brain benefit will be even greater! This will increase concentration, focus and the ability to not only process information faster but it will increase the ability to retain and recall information for the next day!
- Before expecting a child to sit and focus for long periods of time. If you expect your child to sit for an extended period of time it is always beneficial to have them do some sort of aerobic exercise beforehand.
- When behavior indicates there is a need to increase the neuro-transmitters in the brain to help them relax and feel better.
HOW does it work?
There are THREE focused areas of activity that should be integrated daily to optimize brain development.
- Aerobic Exercise
- Sensory Integration/Sensory Motor Activity
- Cross-lateral Movement
THE SCIENCE TO SUPPORT IT:
- Aerobic exercise increases the blood flow through the prefrontal cortex stimulating the growth of more blood vessels allowing it to function more effectively.
- The prefrontal cortex is where executive function takes place. Executive function is a set of cognitive processes that allow us to efficiently perform the skills listed below.
Initiate or delay responses
- Aerobic exercise increases the levels of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the Hippocampus (The main learning center of the brain).
- (BDNF) is the mother of all growth factors that are produced when doing aerobic exercise. It is like Miracle Grow for the brain!
- The Growth Factors (proteins) as a team give the synapses the tools they need to take in information, process it, associate it, remember it and put it into context.
Sensory Integration/Sensory Motor Activity
- Sensory integration is the process that occurs in the central nervous system which involves receiving sensory information and turning it into appropriate functional responses.
- There are seven senses: Olfaction (smell), Gustation (taste), Audition (hearing), Somatosensory (touch), Vision (sight), Vestibular (Moving Balance), Proprioception (cognitive motor planning/body space awareness)
- Everything we learn is received and integrated through our sensory neurons. When our neurological response to sensory input is effective our brains begin to process in a well-organized, integrated manner allowing us to better focus, behave appropriately and learn effectively.
- Sensory integration activities promote communication between sensory neurons located in the prefrontal cortex, the left and right hemisphere and the motor cortex.
- With repetition, these neurons will build stronger connections and begin to communicate more efficiently which allows the prefrontal cortex to integrate sensory input more efficiently.
Cross-Lateral Movement – Crossing the midline of the body
- Functional Disconnection Syndrome is a condition where there is a functional breakdown in the neurological pathways of the body causing the brain and its neural network to lack the needed connection between hemispheres to function effectively.
- Cross-lateral movement activities force both hemispheres to work together at the same time and connect neurons so they can communicate more efficiently.
- Continued repetition of cross-lateral exercises strengthens those connections so that the signal between the neurons becomes stronger! The stronger they are the more efficiently they communicate.
- Because learning takes place in numerous parts of the brain it is important that these lines of communication are efficient!