This is your brain on exercise

Not just energized, but actually brighter. I’m reading John Ratey’s Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  Parts of it are technical, but even just the first (less technical) section sheds some astonishing light on the relationship between movement and learning.

Here’s my quick summary of the content: exercise makes the brain work better.  The implications of what Ratey describes are huge – the potential for exercise to prime the brain for optimal learning and to balance its chemicals such that the likes of anxiety and depression can actually lose their grip on a person.  The research suggests that the key to solving the childhood obesity problem could also get us back on track with math and science – instead of increasing academic instructional time in kids’ days, we’d increase physical activity.  This could make for contentious discussion at the dinner table on Pennsylvania Avenue…

Kids already know this, of course, which is why when you ask many a child what their favorite part of the day is, they say recess.  It’s not because they’re lazy and they don’t feel like studying (though in many cases their classes probably are boring and so it’d be hard to blame them if they didn’t).  It’s because they know they need lots and lots of motion.  Who knows what might become possible if we let them have it.