Think About This: Fitness = Better Learning

I have a handy accessory in my office that helps my brain function. There’s usually a coffee cup on the desk, but for me this works even better. It’s an old mini trampoline I bought at Canadian Tire years ago for my kid’s seventh or eighth birthday.
He wasn’t impressed. Me? I was hooked.

I’m not a neuroanything, so all I know is that jumping up and down helps me focus. When I get stuck or antsy, physical activity clears the way for me to think. It’s fast, efficient, free and it works.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised to read in The Ottawa Citizen a few days ago that the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s Igniting the Spark program is showing remarkable results.

According to Elizabeth Payne’s story Fitness class before math adds up to better marks, published September 30, high school students are breaking a sweat before they crack open their English or math books and they’re noticing improved grades and fitness.

“The key is that students increase their heart rates before sitting down to work,” Payne’s story notes. “The academic, physical and social benefits are supported by impressive research, and students who have taken part in the program see the results.”

Somebody deserves an A+ for Igniting the Spark. And there are countless more Ottawa students—in all the local education systems—who might benefit from such an opportunity. If you’ve ever volunteered in a classroom, odds are you’ve seen kids squirming and fidgeting as they struggled to sit still and stay focused. Organized brain-boosting activity offers a solution that doesn’t involve any solitary trips to the hallway for “time-out.”

In fact, there’s an international movement afoot called Sparking Life: Power Your Brain Through Exercise; its mandate is to change standard practices.  It was founded by John Ratey, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, whose own “spark” was ignited by a school teacher. Back in 1990 in Naperville, Illinois, a junior high phys ed teacher called Phil Lawler shifted his teaching focus from sports to cardiovascular fitness and saw kids’ marks shoot up, over and over again. In 1999, Grade 8 students from Naperville finished first in the world on an international science test.

Wouldn’t it be something if we could get this active-body-brain connection working in our Ottawa schools? The potential is huge for students to feel better, function better and perform better. For that I will jump up and down.


What do you think?


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