Just like our skeletal muscles our brain needs regular stimulation in order to function. Stimulation coming from physical training, movement and healthy living turned out to be an effective cognitive strategy to advance the educational process, improve the memory and increase the motivation and moral of students.
Anatomy of the brain
The brain consists of three separate parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brainstem. The brain mostly associated with the motoric skills and learning is the cerebellum. Question is whether learning takes place in the cerebellum or if the cerebellum communicates with the cerebrum, making learning possible. This is still up to debate, but scientists have established a physical association between the cerebellum and learning. This means the same part of the brain controls both movement and learning.
Movement and the brain
What effect does movement and health living have on the brain knowing there's a direct connection between physical exercise and learning?
We all know physical exercise is good for us. It improves your health, reduces the risks of certain diseases, helps to prevent you from getting depressed and stimulates your calorie consumption. Apart from these well known benefits it also affects our brain. It reduces insulin resistance and inflammation. Some studies has even shown that persons who exercise more have a bigger brain than people who don't. This goes especially for the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for the memory and spatial navigation. The increase of brain mass is a consequence of an increase in the level of oxygen in the brain due to exertion and movement and a fitter and healthier life.
Movement at school
Exercising and movement, but also other ways to a healthy lifestyle are important ingredients to the welfare of children and youngsters. Movement is good but more movement is even better. It can even lead to better results and less absenteeism from class.
Students in primary education have an average of 5,5 hours of break time per week. This means they have a 75 minute break on a schooldays. In practice it turns out that they spend less than half of this time at sports and game activities. The breaks are not optimally used for physical activities. According to the Dutch 'sportraad, Onderwijsraad en de Raad voor Volksgezondheid en Samenleving' apart from their regular gym class children should exercise at least 30 minutes per day.
Movement and learning
Moving while learning is a teaching method based on the concept that you can learn better and more successful when this is done while moving. Physical exercise or movement is most beneficial when done before or during study periods.
Movement can be implemented in schools in many different ways. It can be as simple as standing up to hand in your assignment, playing a hide and seek, a gym class or with kinetic desks that are specially design to stimulate movement and fidgeting. Although movement and learning has a positive effect on all students it can be especially favorable to kinetic students, students who have a hard time keeping focused all the time and students diagnosed with ADHD. Constant movement makes for a positive outlet without disturbances for children with a lot of energy.
Brain breakers for children
A fidget-desk is a great way to expand the time you want to spend on physical exercise without losing time in class. Fidget-desks come in different shapes, such af standing workplaces, rolling desks, pedal tables and desk bikes. Fidget-desks promote dynamic movement during classes.
A fidget-desk can also be used as brain breaker for children. By increasing the oxygen supply to the brain by means of physical activity the body gets more enegerqzed and children get through their schooldays more concentrated and focused. Brain breakers in the classroom are usually short periods spend on movement and activity. Ideas for more movement in the classroom are for example dancing, stretching, yoga, playing games, etc.