Learning isn’t all mental. Scientists are starting to find that physical exercise increases the power of our minds and makes us better learners. Dr. John Ratey is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In his book about learning and the brain, he says that we need to exercise our bodies to improve our minds. Exercise doesn’t just increase important brain chemicals, it also helps our brain grow. Ratey says, The cells in our brains are connected “through leaves on tree-like branches and exercise causes those branches to grow.” When we increase our movement, we improve our thinking skills.
What is the connection between exercise and brain health? Dr. John Medina is the author of a book called Brain Rules. He says, “Our brains were built for walking.” We have to look back millions of years to understand. Early humans walked between 10 and 20 kilometers a day in search of food. This is the situation in which early human brains developed into the same brains we have today. Movement gets blood to our brain bringing glucose and oxygen. Both glucose and oxygen are necessary for improving thinking and learning.
Today, many of us live lives with very little movement. We drive cars or ride trains to work. Many of us sit at desks all day and then return home to sit on our couches and watch TV. More and more researchers are showing that increasing your movement will increase your brain power. In one research study, a group of children ran for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. After 12 weeks, scientists tested their thinking ability and it had increased. When they stopped running, their scores decreased.
So how can you add more movement to your life? Well, one thing you can do is download these lessons and listen to them when you move. Try walking to work or going for a run while you listen. Even just going for a fast walk outside can make you a better English learner.
Muscle building exercises also increase brain power. Here is a great whole body exercise that you can do anywhere.