A study called “Zero Hour PE Program” in the United States shows that exercise can help improve academic performance.
At a high school in Chicago, students were required to arrive at school at 7am to run and exercise, with their heart rate reaching 70% of maximum value or maximum oxygen uptake, before attending academic classes.
At first, parents opposed the idea, thinking that their children wouldn’t want to wake up early to run a few laps on the playground, and would end up falling asleep in class.
However, the results were quite the opposite. Students became more alert and the classroom environment improved, while their memory and focus also increased. Over the course of a semester, the reading and comprehension abilities of the students who participated in the morning exercise program were 10% higher than those who attended regular physical education classes.
So why does “wasting” time on scientific sports or running lead to better performance in all aspects for children?
This is because when we exercise, we produce dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all of which are important neurotransmitters that can enhance a child’s overall state.
Furthermore, exercise can improve a child’s cardiovascular and vascular function, metabolism, physical agility, and balance, regulate body fat, and make children more energetic.
You know, only the child’s health is good, he can learn to play well, to make good friends, to gain the ability to benefit a lifetime, to have a good future.
01Sports can change the brain.
Dr. Wendy A. Suzuki is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Psychology at the Center for Neuroscience at New York University, author and fitness coach. Dr. Suzuki’s primary research interest is brain plasticity, and her recent work focuses on understanding how aerobic exercise can be used to improve learning, memory, and higher cognitive abilities in humans.
Exercise changes the brain, and simply moving your body can have immediate, long-lasting, protective benefits for your brain that last a lifetime.
This is a truly preserved human brain. It will illustrate the two key areas that we will talk about today.
The first is the “prefrontal cortex,” just behind your forehead, which is important for decision-making, focus, attention, and your personality.
The second key area is the temporal lobe. Your brain has two temporal lobes, one right and one left. Deep in the temporal lobe is a key structure that enables you to form and maintain new long-term memories of facts and events. That structure is called the hippocampus.
How can a momentary event, such as the moment your first child is born, form a memory that changes your brain and lasts a lifetime?
That’s what I want to know. I wanted to record the activity of every brain cell in the hippocampus as they formed a memory. And really try to decipher those brief bursts of electrical activity, the way neurons communicate with each other, how do those brief bursts make us form new memories or not?
But a few years ago, I did something that is considered very unusual in science. As a full professor of neuroscience, I decided to completely switch my research program – I had experienced firsthand the brain-altering effects of exercise, an event that had the potential to change many lives, and I had to study it.
But I spent too much time alone in a dark room, not moving at all, and I gained 25 pounds!
I went on a rafting trip alone because I had no social life. And then I came back. I thought, “My God, I was the weakest person on that trip.” “I came back with a mission.
I said, “Never again will I feel like the weakest person on a rafting trip. “That’s what drives me to the gym. I focused my Type A personality on going to all the exercise classes at the gym. I tried everything. I tried kickboxing, dancing, yoga, ladder classes. It was really hard at first.
But I noticed that every time I tried something that made me sweat, my mood and energy went up.That’s why I kept going back to the gym. I started to feel stronger. I began to feel better.
I even lost 25 pounds.
Now, more than a year and a half since I started my exercise routine, I noticed something that surprised me and caught my attention. I was sitting at my desk writing my research grant application when the thought came to me, “Man, the research grant application went really well today.” 」
The grant application went well because I was able to focus and maintain my attention for longer than before, and my long-term memory seemed to be getting better for me. That’s when I connected everything.
The literature that I found was exciting and growing, and basically, it completely pointed out all the changes that I noticed in my body. Better mood, higher energy, better memory, better concentration. The more I learn, the better I understand how powerful movement is.
Eventually, this led me to make the big decision to completely shift my focus.
02Exercise Leads to Better Focus
After several years of really working on this problem, I’ve come to the following conclusion: Of all the things you can do today, exercise changes your brain the most for three reasons.
First, exercise has an immediate effect on your brain.
Every time you exercise, you immediately increase the amount of neurotransmitters, and it boosts your mood immediately after you exercise, and that’s how I feel. My lab has shown that a single exercise session can improve your ability to shift and focus, and that improvement in focus lasts for at least two hours.
Finally, studies have shown that a single exercise session improves your reaction time, which basically means that if a Starbucks coffee falls off the counter, you can catch it faster, which is very, very important.
But these immediate effects are short-lived and help you right after exercise. You need to change your exercise routine to increase your cardiopulmonary function to get a lasting effect.
These effects are long-lasting because exercise does alter the structure, physiology, and function of the brain. We’ll start with my favorite brain region, the hippocampus.
Hippocampal Gyrus – Exercise does create new brain cells. New brain cells in the hippocampal gyrus can increase volume and improve your long-term memory. For you and me.
Second, the most common finding in neuroscience research, in terms of the effect of long-term exercise, is improved attention function, which depends on your prefrontal cortex.
Not only will you have better focus and concentration, but the capacity of the hippocampus will also increase. In the end, you’ll get not just an immediate mood effect, but a long-term effect as well. Therefore, your good mood neurotransmitters can be continuously increased.
But thebiggest difference exercise can make, is the protective effect on the brain.
Think of the brain as a muscle. The more you exercise, the bigger and stronger your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex will be. Increasing exercise throughout your life doesn’t cure dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but it creates the strongest, largest hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, so it takes longer for these diseases to have an actual effect on you.
03How to Effect Change Through Exercise?
So how much exercise do you have to do to get these changes?
First, the good news: You don’t have to be a triathlete to get these effects.
The rule of thumb isget at least 30 minutes of exercise three or four times a week, and you need to do some aerobic exercise.In other words, get your heart rate up.
You don’t have to go to the gym to pay a very expensive gym membership. Walk an extra block while you’re hiking. If you see stairs, take the stairs. Power-vacuuming is a good cardio class option if you’re in the gym.
So I went from being a pioneer of memory to a explorer of movement.
From going into the innermost workings of the brain to trying to understand how exercise can improve brain function, the goal of my lab now is to go beyond the rule of thumb I just told you about – thirty minutes three or four times a week.
For you, according to your age, your health, your genetic background, to maximize today’s exercise effects, while improving and protecting your brain to the best, so that you can benefit all your life.
However,”talking about” exercise is one thing; “doing” it is another.
Bringing exercise into your life not only makes you happier and more protected today, it also protects your brain from incurable diseases. This will change the course of your life for the better.