Learning Together

Get answers, share concerns and join in the conversation.

Get expert insight into early childhood education today.

Active Bodies, Healthy Brains

by Dr. Susan Canizares | February 5, 2016 | Child Development

shutterstock_165826010As childhood obesity and attention deficit disorders in young children continue to increase, more and more research is being done about the effects of physical activity on children’s health.

This research shows that regular exercise is not only vital to physical development, but also brain development in young children. Here are a few examples:

  • Basic brain functions related to attention and memory are necessary for learning. These functions are enhanced by physical activity.
  • Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain. Blood delivers oxygen and glucose, which the brain needs for heightened alertness and mental focus.
  • People who exercise regularly have improved short-term memory, exhibit faster reaction time, and have higher levels of creativity.
  • Exercise reduces stress, which can be very damaging to brain development. The effect is similar to taking anti-depressant medications.
  • Evidence suggests that increasing physical activity and physical fitness improves academic performance.
  • Available evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity.
  • Any physical activity will improve brain health. However, children who participate in sustained and vigorous physical activity benefit the most.

You can read more about this research here.

Since physical activity is so important for overall health and happiness, as well as success in school, encouraging physical activity at home is crucial.

A great way to encourage your children to lead an active lifestyle is to lead one yourself. Incorporate exercise into your family’s everyday routine. Start going for a walk every night before dinner or pick a family swim night at the local pool.

Activities like biking, tennis, and cross-country skiing are especially beneficial as they are sports your children can participate in later in life. Most importantly though, if you want a fitness routine to last, be sure to make it fun and vary the activities regularly.

Want more great ideas to incorporate physical activity into your daily life? Visit these links:

http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/grandparents/play-12-24-final.pdf

http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/what-big-body-play-and-why-it-important

http://families.naeyc.org/article/healthy-fit-families