Positive Effects of Exercise
Almost all of the clients who come to Cedar Ridge Academy have some or all of these problems: anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, trouble sleeping, addictions of various forms, struggles with decision-making skills and executive functions like mindfulness, self-monitoring, organization, and self-regulating.
Our experience has supported what the literature has written about the positive effects of exercise on all of these problem areas. In fact, at Cedar Ridge Academy we have a daily regimen of various types of physical exercise. Weekdays we have group sessions of at least 50 minutes of exercises that range from cardio training to strength training to agility training. On weekends there are work projects that involve campus maintenance, gardening, animal chores, and organized sporting events.
Neurogenesis is defined as “the growth and development of nervous tissue.” Starting in the 1960s there were studies that suggested a link between how we performed with simple cognitive tasks and our level of fitness. While there have been numerous studies involving adults and their levels of fitness and mental faculties, there have been fewer studies of young people and adolescents. There is evidence to suggest that physical activity can positively impact brain development at all stages of life. Exercise promotes Neurogenesis which leads to proper brain development.
Statistics were published about school children in New York indicating that the students who ranked in the top five percent of the fitness rankings scored 36 percentage points higher on standardized academic tests than the students who ranked in the bottom five percent of the fitness rankings. Other interesting information comes from a study of 1.2 million men who enlisted in the Swedish military between 1950 and 1976. This study compared the physical education grades of the young men at age 15 and then the physical performance at age 18. The changes in fitness scores appeared to correlate with cognitive skills and scores on intelligence tests.
Perhaps one of the most notable benefits of regular exercise that we have been able to see is the of reduced levels of stress and anxiety after physical activities. Exercise stimulates the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline, all which regulate signaling in the brain. These neurotransmitters are the same neurotransmitters that are acted upon by drugs for attention deficit orders and also by anti-depression medication.
While we have exercise groups that involve activities such as yoga, cardio workouts, plyometrics, and self-defense, one of our most widely appreciated group activity recently involved the entire campus participating in jumping rope. This was done both individually and in groups doing single rope jumping. For those who really wanted either a greater challenge or wanted to bring back the “Good Old Days” on the playground, we also did Double Dutch rope jumping. It was described as “A whole lot of work, but a whole lot of fun too.”