Physical Exercise and Brain Power

Movement is essential to learning. It’s a priority that you can see in action any given day at Seven Arrows. It makes the brain function and it can be argued that the cognitive benefit of physical activity is far more important — and fascinating — than what it does for the body. Each year, we assess our entire program, and each year, exercise and movement continue to be a high priority.

You can find structured and non-structured Physical Education (PE) offerings that incorporate games, relays, sports, conditioning, and more. We introduce strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility while developing social skills and self-esteem. Outside of PE, you can find Seven Arrows students in Karate, dance, and taking advantage of evidence-based SPARK activities that emphasize student learning through mini-movement breaks. We maintain that a demanding curriculum requires movement of all kinds.

“Physical activity is crucial to the way we think and feel. It cues the building blocks of learning in the brain; it affects mood, anxiety, and attention; it guards against stress and reverses some of the effects of aging in the brain. These are tangible changes, measured in lab rats and identified in people.

Why should you care about how your brain works? For one thing, it’s running the show. Right now, the front of your brain is firing signals about what you’re reading, and how much of it you soak up has a lot to do with whether there is a proper balance of neurochemicals and growth factors to bind neurons together.

Exercise has a documented, dramatic effect on these essential ingredients. It sets the stage, and when you sit down to learn something new, that stimulation strengthens the relevant connections; with practice, the circuit develops definition, as if you’re wearing down a path through a forest. In order to cope with anxiousness, for instance, you need to let certain well-worn paths grow over while you blaze alternative trails. By understanding such interactions between your body and your brain, you can manage the process, handle problems, and get your mind humming along smoothly. If you had half an hour of exercise this morning, you’re in the right frame of mind to sit still and focus on this paragraph, and your brain is far more equipped to remember it.” 

Excerpted from Ratey, J. (2008). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Hatchet Book Group: New York. Pp. 1-7.