With that in mind, I recently sat down with Dr. Wendy Suzuki to discuss the findings of her research. Dr. Suzuki is a professor at the NYU Center for Neural Science; she is focused on the effect of exercise on learning, memory, and cognition. Most research to date in this area has involved the elderly, who tend to exhibit the largest declines in cognitive abilities. Studies have shown this decline can be reduced with regular exercise. Dr. Suzuki's interest, however, is on how exercise affects younger populations. Can exercise improve learning?
The results of Dr. Suzuki's studies have demonstrated significant benefits from regular exercise. In a study on undergraduate college students, Dr. Suzuki's team found that a semester of increased aerobic exercise improved memory recognition. Similarly, they found that an hour of aerobic exercise improved cognitive performance in students on a number of tasks that depend on the frontal lobe. Dr. Suzuki's long-term goal is to identify and understand the specific brain mechanisms that underlie these exercise-led improvements in learning, memory, and cognition.
While we have not yet undertaken any formal, research-based studies at Adventure to Fitness, we have continually heard the same positive results anecdotally from teachers and parents. Teachers have written and emailed, excitedly relaying how much their kids have learned about migratory animals in Serengeti Stampede or how much information they've retained about China from Chinese Challenge. Similarly, we've heard from grateful parents who said their kids became the unofficial tour guides in NYC after Big Bad Apple. The funniest, however, was the proud mom who told us that her child suddenly wants to become a paleontologist after watching Dino Disaster (funny, because, she admitted that she had to look up "paleontologist" before continuing the conversation).
Once we think about it, many of us can recall similar results from exercise. In my case, when I was pursuing my master's degree at MIT and found myself stumped on a problem set, I often went out for jog. I would return with renewed focus and it just seemed that I remembered the information better. At the time, I simply attributed this to "getting a breath of fresh air," but Dr. Suzuki's findings suggest that the exercise itself actually helped with my studies.
So if you want to improve your children's learning, make sure they're getting their regular exercise. Whether you're out on a family walk or biking together, you should feel proud knowing that you're helping your children improve their bodies and their minds! And if you're seeking indoor solutions for those cold or rainy days, try Adventure to Fitness. Rather than sedentary TV or video games with limited educational value, our goal is to get your kids moving and learning.
Healthy Minds + Fit Bodies = Happy Kids!