The Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) states, “…physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.” The CDC research paper can be found here.
Exercise directly impacts the behavior and development of the brain. “It is likely that the effects of physical activity on cognition would be particularly important in the highly plastic developing brains of youth,” according to a 2010 essay by Charles Basch of Columbia University.
He summarized how exercise may affect executive functioning:
- Increased oxygen flow to the brain
- Increased brain neurotransmitters
- “[Increased] brain-derived neurotrophins that support neuronal differentiation and survival in the developing brain.” Neurotrophins assure the survival of neurons in areas responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking.
This year, The Leelanau School added regular morning exercise before school begins. It is called Morning Energize, and so far it is getting rave reviews from faculty and students. Becca Dymond, who is the Coordinator of Personal Growth and Development, explained why The Leelanau School decided to insert this into their day.
“Morning Energize is our answer to the compelling research proving the connection between movement and enhanced learning. Many teenagers, and adults for that matter, struggle to have an alert, energetic transition into the day.
Morning energize allows us 30 minutes to be active and have fun before the rigors of the day begin. The activities are not meant to be strenuous. The options range from yoga, to walking, juggling, or fun group games. Every Friday we do something as a whole school to build some spirit and positivity before the weekend,“ Dymond said.
Michael Lanuzza, senior, said that before coming to The Leelanau School, he remembers having to get up at 6 a.m. to catch a bus and then sleeping through his classes. He says he likes Morning Energize because he has more energy and can pay better attention in his classes.
“I used to be groggy in the morning, and sometimes fall asleep, but now I feel like I can pay attention in class. I like the variety of activities and typically play games like Ultimate Frisbee and games where you try to keep a balloon in the air,” Michael said.
Becca said, “It is exciting to be part of a community where we can learn about something new, decide on its importance, and figure out a way to try it.“
Another added benefit, according to Michael, “It is great to see the whole school interacting, having fun and getting along with each other. It gives you a chance to make new friends.”