The fascinating correlation between fitness and the brain continues to amaze me. The book Spark has solid proof that physical exercise not only improves the body, it improves brain function and activity. Here's what I've learned from just the first chapter:
On the outskirts of Chicago, Naperville Central High school and its faculty have adapted a fitness-based approach at their school. While only 6 percent of the U.S. high schools offer a daily physical education class, P.E. is required at this school and in fact, Illinois is the only state that requires daily phys ed.
As this school has come under a microscope for its practices, Naperville students have excelled. Some 30 percent of the U.S. schoolchildren are overweight -- six times more than in 1980 - and another 30 percent are on the cusp. In Naperville's district, an astonishing 97 percent of freshmen (in 2001 and 2002) were at a healthy weight according to body mass index guidelines. These same students scored consistenly higher on test scores than their unfit friends. There is no doubt fitness and brain use go hand in hand.
And, the kids at Naperville have taken what they were taught in high school and continue to use these skills in their lives today. One student, Jessie, went on to college and pushed herself academically as well as physically. During her freshman year at Embry-Riddle, whenever anything stressful would come up, she and her roommate would run laps on the stairs in her dorms. "These days, every hour is sucked up with something," she says. "Every time I know that a whole bunch of tests are coming up - when I'm really stressed out - I think, OK, you know how to handle this. It's definitely a relief to know that I have something to fall back on. If I didn't have that, I'd probably just go eat or something. But I know that exercise will spike up my brain activity, and so I think, Just go do it. I wouldn't know that if it weren't for my gym class."
Stay tuned for more Spark. I am loving this book....
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