As parents, you are probably aware of the importance of getting your child(ren) moving, but what exactly are the benefits? In general, active students experience less stress, are healthier and are more well adjusted then peers who are less active. Playing on a team or getting out with fellow students also has a number of health and social benefits. Studies have shown that activity and movement also have a number of academic benefits too. Proponents of movement education utilize activity to stimulate development and activity in the brain.
“Research has shown that movement is linked to specific brain functioning in children. For example, cross lateral movement gets the right and left sides of the brain to work together. It helps to wake up different lobes in the brain,” says Martha Swirzinski, a movement education specialist.
Movement education helps to stimulate various parts of the brain. Increased movement also brings oxygen and glucose to the brain which are both essential for optimal functioning. When students sit quietly for longer than 10 minutes, their brains become lethargic. Incorporating movement into education helps keep students focused and improves their ability to retain information. This is especially helpful for students who have trouble learning.
Evidence linking movement and learning
Dr. Peter Strick and his research staff at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center of Syracuse, New York in the mid 1990’s traced a pathway from the cerebellum back to parts of the brain involved in memory, attention, and spatial perception. This means that the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that is involved in learning and memory. This evidence has been confirmed with magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which shows that the same areas of the brain are stimulated by movement and learning.
How to incorporate movement into learning
There are times when book and computer learning cannot be avoided. Here tutors and educators can incorporate activity by instituting the ten minute dance party or the ten minute walkabout.
Divide study time into manageable chunks of time (like 20 – 30 minute increments), followed by a ten minute walk around the room, a race to the front of the classroom or around the house. Students can also move to an area where balls, skipping ropes, weights and games help them to participate in different movements. Set up an obstacle course around the house or classroom which requires students to jump, run, crawl etc. They should have to complete an academic task, and then go through the obstacle course. You can put them in teams or reward individual achievements.
Breaking up the school day into academic segments followed by physical activity helps students to concentrate, stimulates higher cognitive functioning and improves health while reducing obesity.
Note: This entry was adapted from a post on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog on 10/5/2012 titled Movement Learning: Work Smarter, not Harder