Exercise your body, increase your grades

How can daily physical activity help boost academic achievement?

Sam Brown, Section Editor

Hiring tutors and watching videos online are not the only way to improve your grades. Instead, put down the textbooks for a study break on the treadmill or a quick pickup game of basketball at the park. Studies show that a consistent increase in regular physical activity each day can improve focus and give your brain a chance to recover from a day at school.

Exercise is important for the brain. When you exercise, your body changes its flow of nutrients, sending more into the brain. This increases the connectivity of neural pathways, which makes it easier to digest new information in less time. A 2017 study at UCLA measured the amount of brain activity in the MTL, an area of the brain that is responsible for creating new memories. Subjects would be asked about their gym habits and how much time they spent sitting or laying down each day. A scan of activity using an MRI machine found that subjects who often went outside and led an active lifestyle had higher activity in the MTL, while those who stayed indoors on the couch had less activity.

“Exercise influences the brain by increasing cerebral blood flow, which increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients and promotes blood capillaries formation, increases the neuronal connectivity through the promotion of the synaptogenesis and the availability of neurotransmitters,” Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha professor Ivan Cavero Redondo said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), students should be physically active for around sixty minutes every day. However, it does not all have to be in one consecutive hour. Hypothetically, fifteen minutes can be committed before school, half an hour when students get home and another fifteen minutes or so after they finish their homework. Some easy ideas to start getting active outside of school would be classes in yoga, dance and cycling. However, that doesn’t mean that getting active during the school day shouldn’t be encouraged.

“Kids have an internal drive to be physically active, and inhibiting their need to be physically active during school can lead to behavioural problems,” pediatric hospital researcher Jordan Carlson said.

Even some elementary schools are starting to include exercise in their daily routine, such as at Eaton Arrowsmith Elementary in Redmond, Washington where students get seven minutes of class time a day devoted to doing simple exercises like jumping jacks, push ups, or even just running in place.

In 2017 a group of 10,000 students ranging from elementary school to teenagers were told to exercise for ten minutes each day for a study. This time gradually increased to the recommended sixty minutes per day. At the end of the study, although math, reading and science scores all increased, the biggest impact to the students was their ability to focus and remain on task in the classroom.