Children’s exercise programs benefit mind and body

by Abbey Mortemore, FLT Columnist

There is a lot of talk about getting kids active, but do we really understand all of the benefits of getting kids moving? There are the obvious reasons for children to be active and to get regular exercise: to fight obesity, to help grow strong muscles and bones and to instill a life-long habit of being healthy. But there is more. Exercise and activity may be making our children smarter.

There has been a lot written over the past 10 years about exercise and brain function. A few years back the Journal of Exercise Physiology did a study with 900,000 middle school children that looked at the link between physical fitness and achievement tests. They assessed six fitness goals along with reading and math. The outcome was that fitness scores and achievement scores rose in conjunction with one another. Basically, the more fit the child the better the test scores.

Although there isn’t a single scientific explanation for the correlation of better cognitive function and exercise, one thing we do know is that exercise increases cerebral blood flow. This increased blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients to brain cells at a higher rate, causing the blood vessels in the brain to grow larger creating a more efficient and therefore healthier brain.

In addition, exercise affects the delivery of chemicals to the brain known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters largely aid brain function by countering the negative effects of cognitive-suppressing conditions such as anxiety and depression. Which is why it makes sense to take a walk to “clear your head” – the physical exercise of the walk actually reduces stress and therefore improves cognition. It has also been reported that an increase in neurotransmitters helps “lock in” memories when they form and therefore may help in the recollection of facts.

The truth is we don’t need science to tell us exercise is good for our children. We are bombarded daily with the horrible statistics regarding our children’s health. We hear of the negative impact a bad diet and the lack of exercise has on them as they grow into adulthood. More importantly, if we understand the positive benefits of exercise and how it may impact our children TODAY, we as a society hopefully will be more apt to promote active lifestyles for our kiddos. The good news is, if the statistics are showing that a more active child has a healthier brain, maybe we have the opportunity to make our children smarter just by getting them away from the TV, off of the couch and moving!

Abbey Mortemore is the owner of Black Swamp Crossfit & Barbell Club located at 7335 W. Sylvania Ave. just east of King Rd. in Sylvania. If you have questions for Abbey she can be reached at 419-343-2434 or visit http://www.blackswampcrossfit.com for more information.