Movement Matters for the Brain
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Guest post by Nikki Crouse, mom and fitness expert.
First of all, let me be clear about the fact that I was never the kid who moved gracefully and was usually one of the last people picked when teams were divided up in gym class. I tripped over invisible lines and, when I was brave enough to wear shorts, everyone made fun of my purple, splotchy legs. I rarely made a basket, fainted during two track meets, and lived up to my self-acclaimed reputation as a klutz. I’m not kidding!!!
How time changes things as my life now revolves around fitness. As a personal trainer and fitness specialist, I am especially intrigued by the connection between exercise and the brain. I believe we are just at the tip of the iceberg in our understanding of how much movement affects learning, but here are some things we know for sure about how exercise impacts our brain:
- Increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain
- Decreases depression symptoms
- Increases and strengthens neuron connections and brain tissue, especially in the frontal lobe (the frontal lobe is often underdeveloped in people who struggle with ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, Tourettes and OCD)
- Increases memory and focus
- Increases self-esteem
- Decreases chances of hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stress disorders, just to name a few
Are you seeing the big picture here? Experts are predicting that our children will be the first generation to live shorter life spans than their parents. I believe our knowledge and action will not allow this devastating trend to continue. The buck stops here. We all need to make changes in order to turn the ship around.
Sooo…as we stand at the beginning of summer, how can we take advantage of our time to help our families become healthier? Here are five ways to increase your family’s fitness…
- Go to the park everyday. Okay, maybe it won’t work EVERY day, but work PLAY into your day as often as you can. Seriously, when my kids were younger we did go almost every day. It was the only way I could completely stay focused on playing with them without the feeling that I should be doing something else, like laundry or painting the house.
- Get the kids involved. Take turns picking the activity your family will do together. Monday, Dad picks going for a jog; Tuesday, Mom decides on a bike ride; Wednesday, Johnny chooses roller blading; etc…get creative!
- Count the stuff you have to do anyway as fitness. Mowing the lawn, vacuuming, gardening, washing the car, etc…all work the muscles in different ways. Besides helping your kids become healthier, they will become productive members of society with their skills and work ethic!
- Get the neighbors together. Organize a kickball game on a Saturday afternoon, set up an obstacle course in your yard, or go on a hike (my kids always do a lot better if they have a buddy along). Again, the possibilities are endless…it’s just a lot more fun sometimes with friends!
- Don’t forget to add exercise to your “To Do List”. Among all the other important things on our daily list…practice instrument, do chores, read… add, “exercise” to that list. If the kids decide they want to do “Just Dance” on the Wii (FYI, just working the thumbs doesn’t count) or go shoot hoops with their buddies for their activity, that’s great! It puts them in the driver’s seat to make decisions about how they want to incorporate it into their day.
The main thing is that SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. Make it a priority to move every day to keep the body and brain primed for life-long health and learning!
Bio: Nikki Crouse is a mother of two, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and founded JustbFit, working with teachers, parents and kids to increase fitness for life success! Nikki Crouse on Twitter.
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I love these ideas! I have 2 very active boys and we are outside constantly.
One way to get kids outside, moving and active, is to set a good example. If you get up and move and play, so will they. If you make a point of exercising and taking care of yourself, so will they.
I was never the active kid, either, and now I am always trying to find ways to get my kids and my students more active! Thanks for these suggestions!
A fantastic book about exercise’s effect on the brain is called “Spark” and is by John Ratey. Such a wow book with each and every page!
Yes!!! Dr. Ratey is my mentor…he is amazing! “Spark” is the best explanation of how movement affects the brain I have ever read!!!
I heard about Spark from Nikki’s website and LOVE it – I’m recommending it to everyone.