I long ago promised to continue my review of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
This week I make good on that promise, reviewing one chapter each day, Tuesday through Friday. I chose chapters based on their relevance to our homeschool life. It was hard to pick, and there are not enough days in a week to cover all of our issues and diagnoses. So I decided to give equal opportunity to both boys and both parents, with each of us getting a day.
- Tuesday: Anxiety (chapter 4)
- Wednesday: Attention Deficit (chapter 6)
- Thursday: Hormonal Changes (chapter 8)
- Friday: Aging (chapter 9)
I leave it to you to figure out which of us would benefit most from the effects of exercise on each.
Before we start, though, I thought I would reprint something from an earlier post, to help you get up to speed. Those first posts focused on the role of exercise in learning. From last December:
Remember all of the executive functions that I wrote about in Ellen Galinsky’s excellent book Mind in the Making? She had some great ideas on how to improve them. And just reading about how important those functions are reoriented my homeschool priorities. But what I hadn’t heard until I read Spark was how important exercise is for improving all of those functions.
So how does it work? Exercise improves learning by:
- Increasing the production of neurotransmitters that improve alertness, attention, and motivation.
- Preparing and pumping nerve cells to bind to one another (this is essentially what learning is, building connections between nerve cells).
- Spurring the development of new nerve cells from the stem cells in the hippocampus.
In other words, the brain is plastic — it can grow or diminish, work more or less effectively — and exercise helps it to grow and work better.
C’mon, people. Put on your best Peaches and Herb voice and sing along:
Reignited, and it feels so good.