Physical Exercise Makes Kids Smarter!

Change the stereotype perception of genius kids! The stereotypical smart kid prefers reading to playing sports. The stereotypical below average kid prefers sports to learning in the classroom. The fact is, these perceptions are flawed. 

Focus on academic achievement and lower budget levels has led many schools in the U.S. to diminish or for 47% of high schools, eliminate P.E. altogether. Yet neuroscience tells us that daily physical activity opens minds to learn more. In a study conducted with 3 million children in Texas and California, a strong correlation was found between higher fitness scores and higher academic scores. Check out the fMRI brain images below. The blue color represents inactivity in the brain.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, and Urbana, IL

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, and Urbana, IL

Dr. Gage’s work of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has shown that exercise helps generate new brain cells. Through increased blood flow to the brain, physical exercise triggers biochemical changes that spur neuroplasticity – the production of new connections between neurons and even of neurons themselves. Brain exercise then protects these fledgling neurons by bathing them in a nerve growth factor and forming functional connections with neighboring neurons. (Fernandez & Goldberg, The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp)

The lack of physical activity also results in higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Based on a new report compiled by researchers in Global Data, it is estimated that the US will have 81 million overweight and 113 million obese people by 2022. 

Here are 3 ways to keep children physically active.

Training our children today will largely influence their future lifestyles.  

1. Start daily physical exercises at an early age and build this as a habit for future years. 

We often remind our children to brush their teeth twice a day. Add one more reminder, “Did you do your aerobic exercises today?” You will find numerous choices of videos in YouTube. It’s like watching TV (not sitting down like coach potatoes) but with physical actions.

2. Play dates should include physical play.

I remember when I was a kid, my mom punished restless me by making me stay in my room. Today, with all the digital toys, it’s the opposite. Playing outside is a punishment! Tell kids that play date starts with running and jumping around the yard or inside the house. If they want to play video games, start with aerobics apps or Wii workouts. Ipad Apps and video games keep children inside rooms during play dates. 

3. Remind kids how physical activity keeps one health(ier) and smart(er). 

If you have access to pedometers, have each member of the family wear one. Make it a family goal to physically move throughout the day and monitor progress. You can create rewards such as whoever has the highest score will determine the minimum goal for the next day. You can also create a family monitoring system by having a graph on the wall or have each member remind the other about their physical activity goals. 

At Young Outliers, we incorporate physical activity as an essential ingredient for our camps.

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