Whether you’re struggling to get a fidgety child to concentrate on homework or fighting off exhaustion while trying to complete some late night catching up on work, there’s a lot to be said for a quick game of tag or a walk around the block.
Science has proven that activity can actually improve the functions of the brain, such as this UCLA study from 2004. Don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a subscription to PubMed or filter through the science-ese. What it basically tells us is exercise increases different growth factors in the brain which makes it easier for the brain to create new neuronal connections. These connections are how the brain processes information.
Here are several ways exercise physically helps the brain:
- Increases heart rate, pumping more oxygen to the brain
- Aids bodily release of beneficial hormones to brain growth
- Improves cell growth in the hippocampus area of the brain (responsible for learning and memory)
- Brain functioning is increased for a length of time during and after the workout — length of time depends upon the type of activity
When thinking about what types of activity you or your child should engage in, the most beneficial brain-body activities seem to be those which require both physical and mental involvement. Dancing is a good example of this type of activity since it combines physical coordination, rhythm and strategy.
Brain HQ offers several tips for choosing physical activities:
- Aerobic exercise can act as a ‘first aid kit’ for brain cells
- Exercise in the morning helps spike brain activity for the day and increases retention of new information
- Exercise in the morning also helps improve your reactions to complex situations
- Use a few jumping jacks, push ups, or other small bursts of physical activity to jump start a tired brain just after lunch or help you settle down to focus on the next task