How Movement and Exercise Help Kids Learn

Source: KQED

Date: 21-May-2020

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki was a rising star in the field of memory when she looked around and realised that her lifestyle wasn’t sustainable.

“I was trying to get tenure, and I was doing nothing but work,” she says. “I had no friends outside of my lab. I knew I needed to do something. I thought, at least I can go to the gym and try to feel stronger.”

She signed up for the classes that “looked the most fun.” As she expected, her mood and fitness level improved – but she began to notice something else at play. “About a year and a half into that regular exercise routine, I was sitting at my desk writing a grant and this thought went through my mind, ‘Writing is going well!’ I had never had that thought before. Then I realised that all of my work had been going better recently, and the only major change I had made to my life was regularly working out.”

That observation prompted her to explore what exercise was doing to her brain. “My hippocampal memory was clearly better at remembering details and retrieving information.”

These days, Suzuki has switched her primary research focus to the cognitive benefits of exercise. She is the author of the book Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better, and gave a popular TED Talk on exercise and the brain.

The Case for Movement in School

Recess has cascading benefits for children, says Suzuki. “It really has to do with what we know about how the brain works and how we can rejuvenate brain activity – particularly focus, attention and mood. When you cut down recess, you are removing time that kids can run around. And when they run around, their brains are getting a bubble bath of good neurochemicals, neurotransmitters and endorphins. These help memory and mood. A simple burst of exercise helps students focus better — to filter out what they do and do not need to pay attention to in class.”

She argues that movement breaks in K-12 classrooms support the deep kind of learning that they should be striving for.

Adding more movement to the school day is an attainable goal, says Suzuki.  She points to a program called The Daily Mile, an initiative that started six years ago at an elementary school in Scotland. The head of school, Elaine Wyllie, “realised that students weren’t looking healthy,” says Suzuki, “so she asked teachers to take their students for a 15-minute walk or run every day.”  More than 11,000 schools in 78 countries — including half of all schools in Scotland — have now adopted this program. The website includes guidelines and tips for making the program accessible to all students with the aim of helping them become “fitter, healthier, and more able to concentrate in the classroom.”

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The Daily Mile Research Highlights Importance of Exercise

Source: Sport for Business

Date: 07-May-2020

Athletics Ireland have released research on the importance of The Daily Mile in the health and wellbeing of primary school children. According to the new research, teachers see The Daily Mile as an essential part of the school day, with 77 per cent of primary school teachers stating that it has a positive impact on the attentiveness and concentrations levels of children throughout the school day. Within only 18 months of its launch in Ireland at the end of 2018, two-thirds of those taking part now believe it to be an essential part of the school day.

The findings were released yesterday marking the 66th anniversary of Roger Bannister running the first sub four-minute mile.

Over 200,000 primary school children were taking part in 15 minutes of daily exercise up until the recent school closures as a result of the current public health climate, but The Daily Mile at Home campaign has encouraged many to keep it up as part of homeschooling.

Hamish Adams, CEO of Athletics Ireland, said: “The Daily Mile movement really is something special, and it’s great to have partners [SPAR, INEOS, Irish Life Health] who are so passionate about improving the health and well-being of the children of Ireland,”


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Elaine Wyllie

Source: Frontline, The Physiotherapy magazine for CSP members

Date: 01-May-2020

Mark Gould, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, talks to the former headteacher whose initiative to improve her pupils’ fitness in the fresh air is now benefitting millions of children across the world.

‘It wasn’t PE, it wasn’t sport – we had stumbled upon something special.’ So says Elaine Wyllie, the fabulously enthusiastic and energetic woman who has sparked a worldwide campaign to get children more active and improve their physical and mental health.

…And Wyllie emphasises that it is totally inclusive: ‘If you are in a wheelchair you are out on the Daily Mile as well. Special needs pupils in a mainstream school? No bother. It’s really taken off in special needs settings, for children with an exo-skeleton right the way through to a walker, or self-propelling in a chair – they are all outdoors with their friends.’

She says there are the added benefits of improved mental health, less anxiety, and improved readiness to learn. ‘Relationships improve, the language of friendship changes, they can have side-by-side conversations with their teacher in a safe space. When Education Scotland came to see it they said there are no failures here, all these children are succeeding at their own Daily Mile. They said “Look at these 11-year-old girls, you never see them running”.’

Jennifer Harris, the lead senior physiotherapist in paediatric MSK and orthopaedics at Chesterfield Royal Hospitals Foundation Trust, has analysed The Daily Mile and is a fan.


This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the content creator, Frontline. To read the article in full, please click the link below.

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