News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Although a healthy diet and adequate sleep help prepare a child for a day of learning, experts now believe exercise is critical for academic success.
According to Dr. John Ratey, Harvard University MD and Clinical Psychology Professor, our body, including our brain, is designed to perform most efficiently when we move. We have perfected our hard-wired need to conserve energy and find high calorie foods, but have failed to maintain enough movement in our lives.
We are all culprits. We drive instead of walk; our kids sit in front of the TV or computer instead of playing tag, climbing trees, and digging up buried treasure; and we go the grocery store instead of tending a garden.
Deb Skaret, who holds a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Alberta, and long time student of the brain says there is a strong link between exercise and learning. In addition, she believes attention problems in children can be related to a lack of physical activity.
Dr. Ratey agrees, “Exercise helps us with patience, optimism, focus and motivation. Exercise is like a little bit of Ritalin and a little bit of Prozac. It increases the levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine and allows children to stay more focused, have less disruptive energy, and have less worries.”
He encourages “Time-In”, controlled physical activity on a stationary bike for example, rather than “Time-Out”, sitting quietly. He argues that the physical activity break allows the child time to “recover” and “control” his/her behavior.
According to Ratey, research also suggests a link between obesity and IQ. Obese children, who tend to be relatively physically inactive, have lower IQs than children of normal weight. So logically, a smart child with a weight problem could become smarter if he/she added more movement to his/her daily schedule.
Parent can also help with the process by shut off the TV, restricting video and computer time and encouraging daily activities that require their children to move.
So let’s get moving and get smarter!