From this point on, this site's viewer should have already understood the importance of exercise for the brain and mental health since it has great contributions for brain development and growth, well being, and for treating and preventing mental disorders while keeping the body healthy. However, these are not the only benefits on the list of the incredible impacts that exercise has on the brain. One of the most exceptional effects that exercise has is its capacity for increasing brain productivity in almost any type of work.
According to research gathered by NCBI, exercise increases cognitive functions in both young and older adults, improving their efficiency and attentional process, memory abilities, and executive control process. Following the same line, it was also shown that children who practice regular aerobic activity performed better on perceptual, verbal and arithmetic tests in comparison with sedentary children at the same age. This happens because whenever a person exercises, the body increases the blood circulating through the neural circuit, activating the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for the functions of planning, organization, initiation or delay of a response, consequence evaluation, learning from mistakes, maintaining focus, and working memory. Besides increasing cognitive efficiency, exercise is also responsible for preventing cognitive decline and preventing Alzheimer's disease. Through the practice of physical exercise, nerves fire at a much higher rate, creating the Brain Neurotrophic Derived Factor, also known as BDNF. This substance is responsible for keeping brain cells young and healthy, and through this, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease are prevented.
Research conducted with grades 1 to 3 at the Escola Americana of Belo Horizonte (EABH) about children's productivity, focus, contribution to the class, and well being after the break, showed that in all of these grades teachers have seen improvement on the focus, productivity, and efficiency of children who practice physical activities. The same survey was made concerning the focus, productivity, and efficiency of the children who don't practice physical activities during the break, and the results were surprising. Only one of the three teachers has seen improvement in these areas after the break, while the others haven't seen changes at all or have seen a decline in these areas after the break. Besides that, the 1st Grade teacher, Paula, has stated that during classes, when the children start losing focus, she takes a quick break and has the children do jump jacks or any other quick exercise to get them focused on the class again. Moreover, the 3rd-grade teacher, Alessandra, has spoken to her students about how they felt after the break, and besides saying that they felt happy, they also said that they felt more focused and more willing to learn.
Another experience related to how physical exercises increase productivity was detailed by John Ratey, in his book Spark and in his TED Talk "Run, Jump, Learn! How Exercise can Transform our Schools". In these sources, he talks about a very special school system that led him to write Spark. The school district, Naperville District 203, developed a fitness-based PE program that happened daily, in which the students spent 45 minutes practicing sports, aerobic exercises, and other moving activities before having their classes start. This district received national recognition because of the 19,000 students that attended school there, only 3% were overweight/obese, while in the other Californian schools the same index achieved the mark of 33%. The most impressive aspect of this is that in 1999, when the school already used this fitness-based program, they took the TIMSS test (Trends on International Mathematics/ Science), a test that is taken every 3 years by schools in most countries, of which the United States is usually on the low to mid scoring category, and they achieved #1 in science and #6 in math worldwide.
- Mandolesi, Laura, et al. “Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits.” Frontiers in Psychology, Frontiers Media S.A., 27 Apr. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5934999/.
- Ratey, John J., and Eric Hagerman. Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Little, Brown, 2013.
- “Run, Jump, Learn! How Exercise Can Transform Our Schools: John J. Ratey, MD at TEDxManhattanBeach.” YouTube, YouTube, 18 Nov. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBSVZdTQmDs&t=4s.