The Science of Putting One Foot in Front of the Other
Exercise Improves Focus
Concentration can easily be lost by working too hard for too long. The brain needs a break, even a small one. Exercise has been shown to improve concentration. Silva et al. (2015) show that, after only five minutes of exercise, one can become more focussed on a task. So get off your chair, walk to the kitchen and back, and type away again. Let children take a moment to leave their desks and do something active. These small moments of exercise have an immense impact on concentration, and, as such, on memory and learning!
Exercise Reduces Stress
There is a reason why people always tell you to go for a walk and clear your head when you are stressed. It’s all scientific! Side-to-side movement has been found to be a meaningful way to reduce stress. Moving your feet one at a time, left-right-left-right, turns off your brain’s stress response, which is the cause of the flight-fight-freeze reaction. This reduces the feeling of stress in your body and helps you think more clearly. This mechanism is so powerful that bilateral movement has even been used to help trauma survivors (Amano & Toichi, 2016). So, when you feel stuck and upset, it really does help to take a short walk. If you cannot walk for one reason or another, tapping yourself slowly on the knees, one at a time, can also have a similar effect.
Exercise Lifts Mood
When we learn, especially when trying to learn something very difficult, we may become anxious or upset. So what can we do to become a little happier? Exercise makes you happy, because it makes your brain release hormones, such as dopamine (Greenwood, 2019). When you are happy, you are more likely to be innovative and creative, which leads to learning. Exercise improves your mood holistically, so that you feel energised and confident, ready for any challenge!
Exercise Prevents Alzheimer’s
Learning requires a brain that works well. As we get older, we become more susceptible to brain-degenerating diseases, which curb learning potential. Studies suggest that exercise repairs neurological pathways in the brain, which works against illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s (Cotman & Engesser-Cesar, 2002). As we exercise, we keep our brain stronger for longer, and, as such, exercise lets us learn beyond our young years. Keeping active is not only good for our bodies, but also for our minds.
Make Sure to Rest Well, Too
While exercise can help you perform well, it is important to give your brain some well-deserved rest. In fact, Finkbeiner et al. (2016) show that, without rest, our cognitive performance will decrease. We will not be able to focus and we will lose our ability to think properly. Your brain needs its rest, so sit down, relax, and learn some more tomorrow!
Very insightful! I did not know about the stress tapping thing. I need to teach this to my students, too!