Exercise and Its Effect on Learning
Written by Mark Sampson,
in Section Featured Articles
Not only does regular, moderate exercise improve mental health conditions and moods in students, but it can actually facilitate the learning process.
Regular exercise is one of the most effective methods to improve memory and attention and acts as a natural antidepressant.
Endorphins, Adrenaline, Serotonin, Dopamine
Engaging in exercise triggers the brain to release endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. These chemicals work in conjunction with one another to provide you with energy, motivation, and an overall good mood, lending to a better concentration and focus. These naturally occurring chemicals in the body remain elevated for days after exercise is completed. A better mood increases the chances of motivation to learn and it increases levels of focus.
Further, an adequate exercise routine helps develop motor skills and coordination necessary to improve action time, the amount of time a student processes and responds to outside stimuli. Exercise leads to higher functioning neurotransmitters in the brain, are an integral part of both basic and advanced learning and memory retention. Further, exercise generates glutamate, which stimulates the neurons in the brain, improving further bursts of glutamate, which leads to the release of dopamine.
Dopamine causes people to remember events that occur when the mood elevating chemical is present. It's the body's "reward" trigger and allows humans to better experience what they are learning when it is present and its levels are higher. Serotonin also serves to support motivation and drive in students especially when working in conjunction with healthy dopamine levels. Endorphins and adrenaline are two biochemicals that can assist students in the long-term retention of memories, what they have learned, for longer periods of time than when their endorphin levels are low.
How Is This Helping?
According to an article in Attitude Magazine called Brain Power and Exercise: How to Improve Memory and Learning: "Exercise improves learning on three levels: It optimizes your mindset, by improving alertness, attention, and motivation. It prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for learning new information. And it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory and learning. The body was designed to be pushed, and when we push our bodies, we push our brains, too. Learning and memory evolved in concert with the motor functions that allowed our ancestors to track down food. As far as our brains are concerned, if we’re not moving, there’s no real need to learn anything."
They further report that, "A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics matched nearly 12,000 Nebraska students’ timed runs and BMIs against their standardized test scores. The researchers found that higher levels of aerobic fitness corresponded with better academic performance. Interestingly, a child’s weight or BMI didn’t matter—it was their level of physical fitness that corresponded to the better scores."
Exercising for Education
Exercise is critical for students to properly motivate them to learn, as well as to assist them in sustaining attention. It helps them learn new concepts and to retain memories of what they have learned; they will be able to recall these ideas when they need to apply these valuable lessons to everyday life. It's vital to integrate regular, moderate exercise into educational programs to keep students biochemicals that facilitate learning stable and always available. A regular exercise program leads to smarter, happier students.