Child Not Making the Grade? Exercise is the Solution!


Forget the old battle about jock versus nerd. New studies are showing that the jock stereotype—all brawn, no brain—is completely wrong. In fact, the jock might just have a bigger brain than his more studious, less physical counterpart.

New research shows that exercise can increase blood flow to the brain, which results in a process known as neurogenesis—the re-growth of neurons in the brain.

Researchers at Columbia University, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and at University of Illinois found, in separate studies, that subjects who increased their exercise quotient over a three-month period caused so many new neurons to grow that the size of their brains actually got bigger!

The area of the brain that saw the most growth was the hippocampus—the part that deals with memory and cognition.

But what does this mean for school aged children? The California Department of Education studied 7th grade students, and found that the most fit of those students did better on their SATs then their less-fit counterparts. Similar studies from the University of Illinois found that the more fit students had better standardized test scores.

But exercise helps thinking in more ways than rebuilding neurons. Exercise increases neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which decreases feelings of depression, elevates moods, and helps to improve the ability to focus.

But the best part of these findings is that the link between exercise and improved cognitive functioning isn’t just for the young or physically fit. Regular exercise improves brain function in young and old alike.



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