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Get Them Moving: The Benefits of Movement-Infused Learning
© Dr Kathie Nunley, 2017

No one can dispute the growing evidence showing the strong relationship between exercise and cognitive ability. We have seen the research on how increasing aerobic activity leads to better brain function, particularly executive function.

Whether you are teaching preschoolers their colors and animals, reviewing math facts with your 5th graders, or introducing new vocabulary to your high school biology students, get them moving while learning. Up and involved always beats sit to get. Let students move during the actual learning of the content, and you've made a stronger learning pathway in their heads.

We have a wealth of research and information on how physical activity increases the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which directly impacts the brain’s ability to learn and store new information. Simply walking while learning increases cognition and creative thought - an important issue to address because children have become significantly less creative and free thinking, and less intellectually curious in the past decade.

Even the most recent research shows that aerobic activity prior to learning not only increases the brain's neurotransmitters, it also increases capillaries in the brain and improves blood flow. Exercise improves learning and retention.

Outdoor excercise is even more powerful, so when weather and logistics allow, try an outdoor learning session. Pair students and have them practice new learning while walking the school grounds or track. Or, just push the desks out of the way and have a "stand and walk" day inside the classroom. Be creative - standing desks as learning stations, hopscotch learning games, beachball vocabulary.

Supporting Research:

Best, J. (2011). "Exergaming immediately enhances children's executive function." Developmental Psychology, Dec 12, preview

Kim, K, (2011). "Creativity Crisis in Children." Presented at the American Psychologists Association Convention, Aug 6.

Nunley, K. (2006). A Student's Brain: The parent / teacher manual. Amherst, NH:Brains.org

Oppezzo, M. & Schwartz, D. (2014). “Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 40(4), July. 1142-1152.

Shors, T. (2014) "Mental and Physical Training Keeps New Neurons Alive" presented August 7, 2014 at the American Psychological Association Annual Conference, Washington, DC.

Suzuki, W. (2017). "Adventures in Neuroplasticity: From Memory Palaces to SoulCycle", presented at the American Psychological Association Convenition, Washington, DC, Aug 5.

Wu, C. & Hillman, C. (2013). "Aerobic fitness and the attentional blink in preadolescent children." Neuropsychology, Vol 27(6), 642-653.

 

About the Author:
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC television.
Email her: Kathie (at) brains.org

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