“A sound mind is a sound body!” We all know that exercise improves our well-being, but most of us have no idea why. We assume that this is because we reduce stress levels or reduce muscle tension, which generates a feeling of relaxation. This is all true, but the key reason we feel so good when we force blood to flow faster is because our brain just works better then. From a psychological point of view, the benefit of physical activity for mental activity is far more important than we think. The positive impact of exercise on improved well-being is visible in everyone, especially in children and adolescents.
In today’s world based on the use of technology and screens, it’s easy to forget that we are born as individuals who move, so the seated modern life is a disorder for our nature. There was a time when children were playing outside, exercised running or cycling. In recent years, concerns about children’s safety, the popularity of video and computer games, and the growing school and academic requirements have contributed to the decline in the number of outdoor games among young people. Studies show that a seated lifestyle negatively affects the mental health of children and adolescents, so you should think about introducing sports activities in the family on a daily basis.
Benefits of physical activity for learning.
Studies confirm that physical activity improves learning at three levels:
1.It optimises the way of thinking, mainly by improving concentration, attention and motivation
2 It prepares and encourages nerve cells to connect, which is the cellular basis for recording new information.
3. It stimulates the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a part of the brain whose task is to catch and remember new and important individual events: places, facts, concepts. The condition for learning something new is that the hippocampus assimilates new information.
Of course, difficult material cannot be learned during high-intensity exercise, because the blood is then drained from the prefrontal cortex, which impedes executive functioning. However, blood flow recedes almost immediately after exercise and this is the perfect time to focus on learning that requires careful thinking and complex analysis.
So if you have planned to study for an important test or exam in the evening, going for a short, intense afternoon run is a great idea!
Physical exercises and ADHD
More and more children and adolescents are struggling with the problem of hyperkinetic or hyperactivity, often with co-occurring attention deficit. It is more difficult for such students to function in classes that require focusing in seated position. In their research, Pontifex and colleagues have shown that children with ADHD show better attention after exercise. In the evaluation tasks, children participating in aerobic classes achieved greater improvement in reading comprehension and arithmetic tests than children who had previous sitting classes. Researchers suggest that single episodes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise may be an additional treatment for children with ADHD. In addition, short exercises during the school day can be of benefit to children in general.
Depression and exercise
Recently, the relationship between depression and physical activity in children and adolescents has gained the attention of psychologists. Kremer and colleagues investigated the relationship between sports exercises, leisure time screen use and depressive symptoms. Data was obtained from the Health Neighborhoods Study, a cross-sectional study involving over 8,000 children and adolescents in Australia. Moderate to high depressive symptoms were reported by one third of the young people surveyed. The chances of depressive symptoms were lower when young people had more opportunities to play sports or participate in other activities at school outside of classes, to be very active during physical education classes and playing in sports teams both at school and outside. Adolescents who were physically active for at least 60 minutes a day also had fewer depressive symptoms. If students spent less time using the screen in their free time (video games, computer, television), it was also associated with lower depressive symptoms.
It is worth noting that in addition to raising endorphin levels, exercise regulates these neurotransmitters, which are said to have antidepressant effects. Exercise immediately raises the level of noradrenaline in some areas of the brain that stimulates the brain and sets it in motion, it improves self-esteem. Exercise also stimulates dopamine that improves mood and well-being and activates the attention system. Serotonin it is also released under the influence of exercise and it is important for mood regulation, impulse control and self-esteem. It also helps to stop stress by counteracting cortisol and stimulates cell connections in the cortex and hippocampus, which are important for science.
Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the mind, brain and body affect each other. In addition to well-being during exercise, we feel good about ourselves, and this has a positive effect that cannot be attributed to a specific chemical or an area in the brain. If we feel depressed and start exercising, after a while we feel better. The feeling that everything will be okay and that we can count on ourselves changes our attitude towards ourselves and the world. The sheer stability of a sports routine can significantly improve your mood.
Parents! Set a good active example to your children. The most basic and natural way for children to learn is to observe and imitate by repeating the actions they see in their immediate environment. The modelling mechanism and mirror neurons are responsible for this. Mirror neurons are activated when we follow the actions of another person, and thus the connections between neurons that would be active if we were to do these activities are stimulated. This reaction in the brain is carried out independently, unconsciously and spontaneously. The learning process is highly dependent on the proper functioning of mirror neurons. Stress and tension inhibit natural learning. It is the mirror neurons that motivate us to involuntarily imitate others. That is why adults have a huge impact on what behaviours children will observe, repeat and assimilate naturally. All the more, the physical activity of the child’s parents and guardians is very important – it shapes the healthy habits of a young person.